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Mailbag: Is Tanner An Afterthought In The Backfield?
Phillip Tanner seems to be a forgotten player among the backs this offseason. Will he have a role this year?
Nick: He’s not forgotten in the OTAs because Murray and Randle have been injured. But, when it all shakes out, I could once again see him on the outside looking in. Lance Dunbar could carve out a role for himself with his speed and pass-catching ability. As long as Murray and Randle stay relatively healthy, I don’t see a role for Tanner.
Rowan: It’s not going to be easy. Coaches allude to the strides Lance Dunbar is making, particularly as a receiver out of the backfield. Kendial Lawrence also turned some heads during rookie minicamp. Plus, Jerry Jones said the Cowboys took Joseph Randle to immediately come in as a backup to DeMarco Murray. There’s only so much room for running backs on a final roster that’ll already be tight, and unless Tanner absolutely emerges in the preseason or the Cowboys choose to carry four backs, it’s hard to see a role.
I just imagine the kind of numbers Tony Romo could put up if the offensive line was able to provide him time in the pocket. Do you see this line improving their performance from last year?
Nick: It seems like they have to improve, right? There’s really not a lot of other options. I do see them getting better with their cohesiveness, which should help cut down the mental mistakes. They have to stay healthy, too. If Bernadeau and Livings can be on the field – something they haven’t been here in the OTAs – the line has a chance to improve. We’ll see about the center spot and I’m guessing Doug Free will be a better player (perception-wise) than last year. He may be exactly the same, but for half the price, he’ll probably look a lot better.
Rowan: It’s hard to imagine it would be worse than last year. The personnel remains largely the same, except this time they’ll have a year together. If Ronald Leary gets promoted to the starting lineup, it’ll be because he’s better than one of the current guards. There’s more competition at center now with Phil Costa and Travis Frederick, and Doug Free’s seen what happens if he doesn’t perform to his capabilities. The competitions on the offensive line should be better this preseason than last, which should result in better play.