In Wednesday’s version of “as the running back turns” at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch headquarters, coach Jason Garrett says he still hasn’t decided on who will start in Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.
It’s simply not as acute to him as it seems be to the media or Cowboys fans. He says it truly doesn’t matter who goes out on the field first, whether it’s Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden or even Lance Dunbar if the team’s opens in a passing set.
It likely won’t be the newly-acquired Christine Michael, who is still learning the offense and probably won’t be active for Sunday’s game.
"It doesn’t matter," Garrett said. "The only thing that matters is everybody getting ready to play and if their number is called up they go out there and be their best."
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The bottom line is that the Cowboys will truly be a running back by committee and the person who starts might not get the most carries.
The Cowboys will continue to emphasis the run and the most important result of a committee approach is having a fresh running back in the game.
"I think the biggest thing that any team wants to do is you want to be able to run the football," Garrett said. "Sometimes you have one guy who’s a feature back and sometimes you have more than one guy doing it. When you have a couple or three different guys involved running the football over the course of a game, I think the benefits are many. There’s a freshness that each of those guys has. Maybe they have different styles, they can attack defenses different ways. And maybe over the course of three of them you’re just more versatile than one guy might be. They have a lot of different strengths you can tap into over the course of the game. I think freshness and versatility are probably the biggest things."
In Randle, the Cowboys have a back who showed promise in a limited role behind NFL-leading rushing DeMarco Murray last year.
The question now is can he be successful with a larger piece of the pie.
“Well, I think with any young player before they get an opportunity to be a strong contributor or a starter, you’re always betting on what you’ve seen up to that point,” Garrett said. “That happens with our team every year, playing a young guy, playing a rookie, maybe you’re playing a second or third year guy who hasn’t played before, when those roles change, you’re basing it on evaluation you’ve had up to that point. Joe’s done a lot of good things to give us confidence to think he can do a good job for us."
In McFadden, the Cowboys have a veteran option who has carried the load before but is looking for a fresh start after seven disappointing and largely injury-plagued years in Oakland.
“We think a lot of Darren McFadden,” Garrett said. “That’s why we signed him. And he’s done a good job for us. He was injured early on in camp, but since he has been back playing he has handled everything we have asked him to do really, really well. He practices hard. He has played effectively in the games for us. You see his track record in Oakland in a couple different roles. When he has been healthy he has been a good football player. He certainly handles it like a pro and approaches everything the right way. He has had a positive impact on our team.