Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys are prepping Lance Dunbar for bigger role as third-down back

The Dallas Cowboys like Lance Dunbar as a third-down back because of his speed and cutting ability.
The Dallas Cowboys like Lance Dunbar as a third-down back because of his speed and cutting ability. Star-Telegram/Paul Moseley

Former Haltom High and University of North Texas product Lance Dunbar might not be a central figure in the battle to replace DeMarco Murray as the Dallas Cowboys starting running back, but it appears he is being prepped for a big role in 2015.

Dunbar took the majority of the reps as the primary back in the 2-minute offense during organized team activities, setting the stage for him to be the team's third-down back.

"I'm just competing every day," Dunbar said. "Whatever happens (with the starting job) happens. But I know I'm going to have a role. Since DeMarco is gone, there is lot to be done."

Dunbar thought he was going to have a role last year and it certainly seemed the Cowboys were prepping him for that in training camp and the preseason when they treated him like a starter by limiting his time in games along with Murray.

But once the season started, it was Murray all the time. Dunbar carried the ball 29 times for 99 yards and had 31 receptions for 309 yards.

"He was a back that could do everything," Dunbar said. "It was his time. It was frustrating, but at the same time it was what was best for the team. It was working. We were winning. Why change it up? But I feel good about my opportunities this year."

And he should.

None of the other competitors for the starting job _ Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden _ will be entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the full load. It will truly be a running back by committee approach.

It appears that Dunbar's job is to be the third-down back in the passing game.

"We have always liked Lance a lot," tight end Jason Witten said. "He is a hard worker. With DeMarco and the year he was having, it was hard to justify taking Demarco off the field. But Lance has got some quickness. He is a mismatch in the run game on the edge with his speed, but especially in the pass game.

“He understands it’s an opportunity for him on third down. Out of the backfield on routes, he is a huge mismatch. (What he did in practice) was a good example of that."

Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760

Twitter: @clarencehilljr