Don’t fret about the Dallas Cowboys’ running game. At least not yet.
The Cowboys remain committed to being a smash-mouth, run-it-down-your-throat kind of football team, despite what the numbers might suggest after the season opener.
Sure, they don’t have a guy who is capable of reproducing DeMarco Murray’s historic season from a year ago. But they aren’t wavering in their running back by committee approach, either, and they’re definitely not putting added pressure on Sunday’s game in Philadelphia with Murray on the opposing sideline.
“For me, I don’t even look at it that way,” said Darren McFadden, the Cowboys’ biggest running back addition during the off-season. “I look at it as the Cowboys playing against the Eagles. That’s just what it is.”
Starter Joseph Randle echoed those thoughts, saying his focus is on “perfecting my game … and trying to make sure I’m the best Joe Randle on Sunday that I can be.”
That’s the approach everyone within the Cowboys is taking, at least publicly. And nobody in the organization is getting too carried away with how the season-opening numbers looked in the win against the New York Giants.
The Cowboys had only 23 rushes for 80 yards (including a 1-yard loss on a kneel-down by Tony Romo at the end of the first half), but the context in how the game unfolded mattered.
The Cowboys had four 2-minute drives in the game, something that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has never seen in his coaching career that began in 1987.
“When you have four 2-minute drives, you’re not really focusing on the run,” Linehan said. “You look and encapsulate that and that is almost half the game. That’s how you have to look at it.”
A better example of what the Cowboys would like to do offensively, Linehan said, came on their first and second drives of the game, as well as their first drive in the second half.
On the opening drive, the Cowboys ran 17 plays, gaining 79 yards in what turned into a field-goal drive.
Dallas opened the game with a pair of handoffs to Randle, and ended up carrying it a total of six times. But five other plays saw Romo dumping it off to Randle or Lance Dunbar coming out of the backfield.
On the second drive, they ran it three of seven plays. And, on the Cowboys’ first offensive series in the second half, they ran it five of nine plays.
“I feel like that was us,” Linehan said of those series. “I felt there was really good efficiency in there. The average per carry and the run efficiency, those were good.”
Randle led the rushers with 65 yards on 16 carries, averaging more than 4 yards a carry, and also had 42 receiving yards. McFadden had 16 rushing yards, plus another 19 on a nifty pass play.
But the most productive back of the day was Dunbar, who had a career day. He didn’t get any carries, however, but had a great day catching the ball out of the backfield with eight receptions for a team-leading 70 yards.
In all, that is 212 total yards of offense produced by the running backs.
“We took advantages of our opportunities, that’s what it’s all about,” Dunbar said. “If we can all do that we can be a great group. O-line is great, receivers are great, we’ve just got to do our job each and every day, and I think good things will happen. As long as we take advantage of our opportunities, we’ll be good.”
Garrett and the rest of the Cowboys’ coaching staff intend to give the backs plenty more opportunities.
A year ago, the Cowboys ran it 508 times and had 506 pass plays (including sacks) in the regular season.
That worked out well for a team that won the NFC East and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs.
And the running backs are hungry to prove themselves on the ground, even though they have kept quiet on the Murray subject.
It’s not a showdown between the running games, after all, but the Cowboys would like to have the better one Sunday.
“We always pride ourselves on winning the rushing title every week,” Randle said. “That’ll be the same this week, too. It’s going to be fun. I think we’re going to focus on our guys — an us against the world type of feeling. It is a rivalry.
“Any time we play this game, we’re excited to play.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760
Backfield in motion
The Dallas Cowboys kept all their running backs engaged against the New York Giants with the run and pass. Here’s how:
3 Pass targets
107 Combined yds
8 Pass targets
70 Combined yds
1 Pass target
35 Combined yds