Gil LeBreton

When it comes to running backs, Cowboys may not have Plan B

Byron Jones discusses his left shoulder injury

The Cowboys first-round pick hopes he can practice Monday, a day after injuring his shoulder.
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The Cowboys first-round pick hopes he can practice Monday, a day after injuring his shoulder.

Of all their personnel moves in Dallas’ industrious off-season — the welcomes and the farewells, the draftings and the departures — none confuses the brain more than the Cowboys’ decision not to formally replace running back DeMarco Murray.

The word “cavalier” comes to mind. But, no, their reluctance to fill Murray’s cleats with adequate feet seems less cunning than that.

It’s almost as if after openly lusting for the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson — and losing, when he decided to sign a new deal with Minnesota — the Cowboys were too proud to admit they had to resort to Plan B.

If they even had a Plan B.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re right on schedule as far as having a back or backs ready to go for the New York Giants,” owner Jerry Jones said over the weekend. “I’m not anxious in any way.”

Easy for him to say. He doesn’t have to sit home and squirm while Joseph Randle carries the ball on TV.

Less than four weeks, however, before the opener against the Giants, that’s what the Cowboys are looking at — a likely tandem of Darren McFadden, Randle and North Texas’ Lance Dunbar.

McFadden, a bust in Oakland mostly because of injuries, would be the starter, if he could ever get on the practice field. After hurting his right hamstring in minicamp, McFadden, who will soon turn 28, injured his left hamstring before the team left for California.

There was a time, yes, when someone urged Owner Jones in this very space to acquire the services of Arkansas multi-threat McFadden. But that was 2008.

Drafted No. 4 overall, McFadden has never been able to start a full 16-game season. Of 112 possible regular-season games since he came into the league, McFadden has started only 63.

And Owner Jones liked those odds when choosing to replace the NFL’s leading rusher?

It doesn’t make sense. Nor does it add up that the Cowboys brought in an array of the top collegiate running backs — Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon, among others — yet passed on selecting any backs during the seven rounds.

The Cowboys’ offensive line is good. Can it really be that good — plug-and-play good?

The team’s off-season response borders on being insulting to the kind of 2014 season Murray had.

If he really thought Peterson was going to be the Cowboys’ starting running back, Owner Jones clearly misread the tea leaves. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer never gave any indication that he wanted Peterson to play anywhere but Minnesota.

The Vikings had to lose a lot of football games just to have the opportunity to draft Peterson in 2007.

Other options remain, of course. But, like McFadden, they also are mostly rolls of the dice. The list includes, among others, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Knowshon Moreno and Pierre Thomas. Another possible Murray replacement, Chris Johnson, signed Monday with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cowboys appear to be committed to McFadden for now. Whether Rice still would be an option in midseason is another dice roll. Rice hasn’t played in two seasons.

If the Cowboys are worried about the position, neither Owner Jones nor coach Jason Garrett are showing it.

“I haven’t worried about it, because I felt that we were going to have an opportunity to see it at the right places,” Jones said, “and this is a good time as any. This will be a good week. We’ll be able to take a good look certainly at these backs.”

When the Cowboys, because of the injuries at the position, did finally dip into the free agent pool for a running back this week, they signed Michael Hill and Ben Malena, formerly of Texas A&M.

But that’s no Plan B.

If there is one.

Dallas Cowboys fullback Tyler Clutts talks about the incident with safety Jeff Heath causing a brief fight between the offense and defense in Sunday. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks about the injury to first-round pick Byron Jones Sunday in Oxnard, CA. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Dallas Cowboys beat writers Charean Williams and Clarence Hill preview the combined Cowboys-Rams practice in Oxnard, CA. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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