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Roster Rundown: Knee Injury Cut Dunbar’s Season Short
Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players’ impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features running back Lance Dunbar.)
Name: Lance Dunbar
Position: Running Back
Height/Weight: 5-8 / 188
Experience: 2 seasons
College: North Texas
Key stat: The Raiders game on Thanksgiving Day was Dunbar’s first real breakout game, but it ended with a season-ending knee injury. Dunbar had 12 carries for 82 yards – both career-highs and had a 12-yard reception before the hyperextension knee injury finished his season.
Contract Status: Signed through 2014.
2013 Impact: If you told me before the season that Lance Dunbar would have been a non-factor as an offensive player for this club, I would have called you crazy. Like many of these players, I go back to what I observed in minicamps, OTAs and training camp to get a real gauge what roles they might have and there was no question in my mind that Lance Dunbar would have been a special player. I recall a day of visiting with Jason Witten discussing how we both thought that Dunbar would have 50 catches in this offense but those 50 catches only tuned into seven. I do understand the concerns that the staff had about him fumbling the ball but he was the only running back on this roster that was able to come up with the explosive play. The final two games that he carried the ball in the season were against the Giants and Raiders, he averaged 6.75 yards a carry. DeMarco Murray was outstanding in his role as the lead dog in the sled, but with as much as this offense was using “11” personnel, it would have been a really good chance to take Dunbar and run him against those fronts when opponents were light in the box. It just bothered me that you have a weapon with his ability and he is just playing on special teams. My feeling was that Lance Dunbar should have had a bigger role in these games and you would have most likely seen more games like he had against the Raiders, where behind this improved offensive line, he would have been a difference maker.
Where He Fits: As long as Lance Dunbar is on this team, he will always have a role for me in this offense. As mentioned, he is an explosive ball carrier that can take simple plays and make them large. His hands are a strength and he has improved as a blocker in protection. New play caller Scott Linehan did a really nice job of taking what he had in Reggie Bush and creating plays for him in space to take advantage of his big play ability. I expect the same types of opportunities for Dunbar but the key for him will be his health and that ability to secure the ball. I might be off here but I still roll with Lance Dunbar because I do feel like he has some rare skills and as we watch these games each week, it is about how coaches use these mismatch players to their advantage and Dunbar can help in that area in my opinion as that type of player.
Nick Eatman: Everything we’ve thought of Lance Dunbar so far in his two seasons has pretty much come true. We thought he was a quick, playmaker in space with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. We thought he was undersized and those guys are always prone to injuries. And we’ve seen that, too. So as he heads into his third year, the jury is still out for Dunbar. I think the Cowboys need a change-up guy like Dunbar to spell DeMarco Murray and if he can be that third-down back who can hurt teams that try to blitz, then Dunbar really will have a specialized role. But for now, he has to show he can stay healthy.