DeMarco Murray left for Philadelphia. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan left for Washington. Yet, Jerry Jones insists the team’s running game, which ranked second in the league last season and featured the league’s leading rusher, improved this offseason.
“The entire [running] game we’re better. We’re better,” the owner said. “Murray certainly is in that thought, but what we’ve got a chance to do with our depth, what we’ve got a chance to do with the talent, the competition that we have, and I’m assuming we can protect [Tony] Romo, which standing here last year, the concerns about his surgeries were more so than today. So if Romo can have the kind of year he had last year, then our running game will benefit from that. I’m talking about his individual abilities, his decision making throwing the ball.”
The Cowboys finished with 508 run plays and 506 pass plays last season as Murray rushed for 1,845 rushing yards.
Dallas didn’t draft a running back, leaving the four veteran running backs on the roster to compete for roster spots, playing time and carries. Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams have combined for 1,281 carries for 5,242 yards and 30 touchdowns, catching a combined 261 passes for 2,206 yards and five touchdowns.
Most of those numbers belong to McFadden, who played seven years in Oakland. He has 1,038 career carries for 4,247 yards and 25 touchdowns with 211 catches for 1,769 yards and five touchdowns.
“We feel good about what we did with running the football last year,” coach Jason Garrett said. “I do believe it starts up front. We made a real commitment to solidifying our offensive line. We continued that commitment this year in the draft. We have good competition not only for some starting spots but for backup roles as well. Running the football starts there. We felt like our tight ends blocked very well, our receivers blocked well, our fullback blocked well and obviously our runner ran well. DeMarco was the guy who carried the bulk of the load last year, but I think if you evaluated the job those other guys did, Joe Randle, Lance Dunbar, when they had opportunities they were very productive. We’ll give those guys opportunities.
“We’ve obviously added Darren McFadden to the mix so we’re giving those guys a chance through the offseason and training camp to show that they can be the guy. We’ll figure out as we go how to best use them and how to best use them individually and together, how to allocate that work load. It’s an exciting time for us. A lot of positive things to build on from last year, but that’s not really how we go about it. We go about coming back to ground zero, starting anew and that’s the process we’re in right now.”