Joseph Randle is listed as the starting running back on the first depth chart released by the Dallas Cowboys in advance of Sunday’s opener against the New York Giants.
But both coach Jason Garrett and vice president Stephen Jones admit they have not yet decided who will start.
It could be Randle, who was the backup last season to the departed DeMarco Murray, who ran for a team-record 1,845 yards.
It could be free-agent signee Darren McFadden, who is looking for a fresh start after a disappointing and injury-dotted seven years in Oakland.
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Or it could be Christine Michael, the newly-acquired 2013 second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks who came over in a trade Sunday.
But it won’t be Lance Dunbar, who has a clearly defined role as the team’s third-down back.
“We won’t outline anything before the game,” Garrett said. “We’ll give each of those guys a chance over the course of the week to show us that they’re worthy of opportunities.”
Jones said the starter will likely be decided in practice this week.
It’s certainly an issue that resonates with fans, considering how important the running game was to the team’s success last season.
Jones said Tuesday morning on 105.3 The Fan that the No. 1 thing he’s been asked whenever he goes out is whether the Cowboys still will be as committed to the running game this season as they were last season — when Murray set the pace as the league’s leading rusher.
Jones said the Cowboys’ run-first philosophy will remain the same and expects the running game to be the same if not better than it was last season.
1,845 yards rushing by DeMarco Murray last season, which led the NFL by 484 yards
He pointed out that while the Cowboys will do things differently with a committee approach, the foundation of their running success remains the same with the league’s best offensive line.
“I think all the pieces are there,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of different ways to be successful in the running game.
“Obviously, last year, we did it with one back. This year, I see a lot of people contributing to our success.”
Randle has been listed as the starter throughout training camp and is the favorite for the job. He didn’t talk to the media Tuesday.
Jones said Randle “carried the load” for the team in the preseason and camp if you look at his full body of work.
McFadden said he is still waiting on the final word from the coaches but remains unconcerned.
McFadden, signed as a free agent in March, missed 29 games with 15 injuries during his seven-year stint with the Oakland Raiders. He played a full 16-game schedule for the first time last season but averaged less than 34 yards per game.
“It’s a mindset,” McFadden said. “You have to have yourself ready to play regardless if you going to get one carry or 10.”
McFadden was unfazed by the addition of Michael, saying: “It’s a long season. Any time you can add a back like Christine Michael, it’s a plus to the team.”
That’s certainly the Cowboys’ point of view.
Michael, who played at Texas A&M, spent Tuesday in the meeting room with running backs coach Gary Brown getting up to speed on the new offense and was unavailable to the media.
At 5-foot-10, 221-pounds, he brings a physical, down-hill running style that Murray utilized last season.
The Seahawks made Michael a second-round pick in 2013 after he rushed for 2,791 yards and 34 touchdowns in four seasons with the Aggies.
In 14 games over two NFL seasons, Michael had only 52 carries and 254 yards.
“I think we just wanted to make sure that we have a lot of options there,” Jones said.