Cowboys seeing double vision at running back

Posted Monday, Nov. 07, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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IRVING -- Rookie DeMarco Murray has won over the Dallas Cowboys, but he hasn't won the starting job.

When Felix Jones returns -- and it could be this week -- the Cowboys' veteran running back will get his touches. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday all three running backs, including rookie Phillip Tanner, will have roles.

"We like Felix Jones a lot," Garrett said. "Felix has been a very good player for us, a dynamic player, made a lot of big plays both in the running game and in the passing game since he's been here. So there's going to be a role for Felix Jones coming back. We like to get him the football as well.

"But it's been great to see both of those young guys emerge. To have two rookie running backs going into games in consecutive weeks, carrying the load for you and having the success that those guys have had, that's a good thing. That's a good problem to have. So we'll address it when Felix gets back."

Jones has missed the past three games with a high left ankle sprain. He has started running and cutting, Garrett said.

"He had a good workout [Monday]," Garrett said. "He's going to have another workout [today], and we'll see how he feels on Wednesday."

In Jones' absence, Murray has run for 466 yards. It is the best three-game stretch in team history. Emmitt Smith's best three-game run was 446 yards in 1993.

Though Murray did it against the 32nd-, 29th- and 13th-ranked rushing defenses, the former OU star has impressed the Cowboys with his work ethic, his demeanor and his quick development. Murray missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury.

"He had the big game a couple of weeks ago against St. Louis [when he rushed for a team-record 253 yards], and then Wednesday, he's out there playing scout team," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said Monday. "It's like, 'I don't think you need to be the scout-team back any more, DeMarco. I love the mentality that you have but get some rest. We need you over here.'

"But I think that mentality pays off for him. He's been great. He's been a dynamic player for us. Our offense, and really our team, has been better and had success because of the way he plays."

Murray ranks 13th in the league with 539 yards on 80 carries. Jones has 253 yards on 63 carries. Tanner, who became the third back when the Cowboys released Tashard Choice before the Philadelphia Eagles game, has 47 rushing yards.

Since Smith departed after the 2002 season, the Cowboys have had only one 1,000-yard back. Julius Jones ran for 1,084 yards in 2006.

Murray needs to average only 57.6 yards per game the rest of the way to hit 1,000 yards. At his current 6.7 yards per carry average, he needs only nine carries a game to do that.

The Cowboys believe they have a plan to involve both Murray and Jones in the offense. Who the starting running back is doesn't concern the Cowboys or Murray.

"Last year in college was my first true start I ever had, so it was good," Murray said Sunday. "I don't mind sharing carries -- 50-50, 30-70 or whatever it is -- in order to help this team win."

Murray and Jones. Jones and Murray. They'll both have their number called once Jones returns.

"You want to be team guys first and foremost, but those guys wouldn't be in the position that they're in if they weren't great competitors," Garrett said. "They want the ball. They want the ball in every situation, and we think that's a good thing. We have to manage it as coaches and try to use those guys accordingly to get the best out of each of them to help our football team."

Charean Williams

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