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On Field & Sidelines, Look For Many Changes At Running Back

Posted Feb 7, 2013

IRVING, Texas – It’s a position that will see some big changes on the field by next season. It’s a position that will likely see some big changes on the staff by next week.

            However you slice it, look for the running back spot to look vastly different for the Cowboys in 2013.

            And that doesn’t even include a change at the top as DeMarco Murray is expected to return as the featured tailback.

            After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

            This is the only position on the staff that has yet to be filled. And it was the first one vacant after the Cowboys decided back in early January to dismiss running backs coach Skip Peete after six seasons.

            While five new faces have joined the coaching staff and other coaches have adopted some new roles, the Cowboys haven’t finalized things at running back just yet.

            The club has interviewed Sam Gash, a 12-year veteran fullback who spent five years as the Lions running backs coach, and considered Tim Spencer, who held the same role with Chicago. One of the leading candidates now could be Alabama tight ends/special teams coach Bobby Williams, who coached with Jason Garrett for two years with the Dolphins as running backs coach and met with the Cowboys about an opening three years ago.

            Whoever the new running backs coach will be, he’ll likely have to get some new pieces in place.

            Felix Jones is an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to return to the Cowboys next season. After five years, the former first-round draft pick doesn’t have a defined role anymore, since he doesn’t start, hasn’t returned kickoffs on a regular basis and isn’t the regular third-down back. Jones will likely get the chance to be a No. 2 back for another team.

            Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar are both under contract and will remain in the mix. Tanner wasn’t used much later in the season, while Dunbar, an undrafted rookie from North Texas, got more opportunities as the year wore on.

            Still, it leaves the door open for at least one, possibly two new backs to enter the equation this season.

            Don’t expect the Cowboys to spend a first-round pick on a back, or even a second-rounder considering Murray is still the expected starter with just two years under his belt. But a mid-round back or even a reasonably priced free agent makes sense.

            Since Tony Romo has become a full-time starter for the Cowboys, there has not been a 1,000-yard back for this team. Julius Jones rushed for 1,084 in 2006 while Marion Barber went for 975 in 2007 and made the Pro Bowl.

This past year, Murray missed six full games and half of another with a sprained foot. He rushed for 663 yards on 161 carries, a 4.1 yard average.

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