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Roster Rundown: Randle Gets Small Taste As Starter
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 Joseph Randle.)
Name: Joseph Randle
Position: Running Back
Height/Weight: 6-0 / 198
Experience: 1 season
College: Oklahoma State
Key stat: In his first season in Dallas, Randle served as the primary running back when DeMarco Murray missed two games in October and totaled 33 carries in those games combined.
Contract Status: Signed through 2016
2013 Impact: When Joseph Randle was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft, his selection was not so much about playing that season but the potential to develop him for seasons to come. In studying Randle’s body of work from his days at Oklahoma State, the front office and coaches felt like that he had the talent and makeup to put a 3rd round grade on him and grab him at some point if the opportunity presented itself. There have always been questions about DeMarco Murray and his ability to last an entire season, so protecting themselves with Randle made sense. It’s no secret that when looking for a running back, you would like to have one that is a complete back. There are plenty of running backs in college that do one or two things well and you work to train them to strengthen those traits that they are weak on. That was what Jason Garrett and Gary Brown were faced with when they drafted Randle. I remember studying Randle and coming away with how impressed I was watching him catch the ball. I thought when I saw him live in camp, this was his greatest strength. I did like his physical running style as well but he was one of those backs that ran until he heard glass break. We saw this in the starts that he made against the Eagles and Lions. There really wasn’t much feel or even vision in the way he did it but that was his style in college. I believe a majority of this was due to the type of offense that he played in. In college, he attacked a lot of defenses that were spread out and he just took the ball and hit the hole. What he is going to have to learn is how to see holes, read blocks and work his way through them. An outstanding example for him in this rookie year, was playing behind Murray and how he was able to navigate in this zone running scheme but he has the talent to be successful in it.
Where He Fits: There are several young players that I believe will make a bigger contribution to the success of the team in 2014 and Joseph Randle is one of those guys. With DeMarco Murray in his final year of his contract, there will be a bigger push to see if Randle can indeed handle the job if passed along to him. In talking to several members of the front office about his prospects, they were hopeful that he could build on some of the positive things that he showed in 2013, running and catching the ball. Where Gary Brown is going to have to work with Randle is on that pass protection. This is where Murray has a huge advantage and it’s rare when he comes off the field. What Randle has to show in the upcoming camps that he is assignment sound in order to get more opportunities but the tools are there to have success. There will be plenty of eyes on his development.
Rowan Kavner: The Cowboys made it a point before the season began that Randle would be the player capable of handling a full-time role if called into duty. That’s what he did when DeMarco Murray went out, and he performed with mixed results. He demonstrated that he can handle the full load, but there were few “wow” or “can’t miss” moments during Randle’s rookie season. In training camp, he appeared to have a nose for the end zone despite not possessing one of the bigger bodies at his position, and he finished with two rushing touchdowns on the year. This offseason will be an important one for Randle to get bigger and faster to display next season that he can be an improved every-down player while protecting Tony Romo. Scott Linehan’s wasn’t afraid last year to use all the productive players in his backfield in Detroit, and Randle will have to establish himself ahead of Lance Dunbar if the rookie’s to get some touches while Murray’s still healthy. This is the year the Cowboys have to determine if Randle is capable of being a long-term starter.