IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.
As we count down the days to camp, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.
With 24 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the offense's woes in scoring from the ground:
24) Do the Cowboys have a legitimate red zone running back?
Say what you will about Marion Barber, but the guy got into the end zone. Barber's 47 career rushing touchdowns as a Cowboy place him third in franchise history, behind only Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.
If the only guys above you are two of Dallas' all-time greats and two of the best running backs in the game's history, you're doing something right.
Yes, Barber tailed off toward the end of his time in Dallas, which is part of the reason he's not remembered too fondly. But the Cowboys' last high-profile No. 24 before Morris Claiborne had a nose for the end zone.
Here's a sobering statistic: Barber's worst touchdown total in Dallas – four, which he managed in 2010 – is the same as team leader DeMarco Murray's total in 2012. His paltry four touchdowns in 2010 was half as many as the entire ground game put together last season. And on his good years, Barber obliterated that mark with 24 combined touchdowns between 2006 and 2007. [embedded_ad]
Murray has said publicly that the meager scoring production from the running game is unacceptable. That much is obvious. The tougher job is finding a battering ram who can grind his way into the end zone in short-yardage situations seven or eight times a year.
Joseph Randle could possibly be that guy, though it's hard to say without having watched him play at this level. The red zone power game doesn't seem to fit the styles of Lance Dunbar or Phillip Tanner. We know Murray can do it when healthy – if he can stay that way.
Barber's career in Dallas isn't going to earn him a spot in the Ring of Honor. But this offense will be a lot better off if it can find a back who can find his way into the end zone as often as No. 24 did.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 25:
- 24 points is the Cowboys' record for points scored during the second quarter of a game. It's not that interesting of a stat, but it is interesting how many times it has happened – six times. The six opponents were the Giants, in 1966, the Steelers in 1966, the Lions in 1968, the Patriots in 1971, the 49ers in 1980 and the Redskins in 1994.
- The first-ever Cowboys defense allowed an awful 24 rushing touchdowns in 1960 – still the worst mark in franchise history.
- The team record for points scored in a game is 24 (or four touchdowns). Seven different players have done it, starting with Dan Reeves in 1967. Bob Hayes came after him in 1970, while Calvin Hill and Duane Thomas both accomplished the feat in 1971. Emmitt Smith scored four touchdowns in a game twice in his career – once in 1990 and once in 1995. The most recent Cowboy to do it was Terrell Owens, who caught eight balls for 173 yards and four touchdowns in 2007 against the Redskins.
- Conversely, three different players have scored 24 points against the Cowboys. The most recent player to do it was Sterling Sharpe, who caught nine passes for 122 yards and four scores in a 1994 game against Dallas. The Packers still lost the game, however, 42-31.
- The aforementioned Calvin Hill was selected as the No. 24 overall pick by Dallas in the 1969 NFL Draft. He would become the Cowboys' first 1,000 yard rusher, as well as the 1969 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He earned four Pro Bowl nods during his time with the Cowboys.
- Barber was the most high-profile No. 24 for the Cowboys since cornerback Larry Brown, who famously won MVP honors at Super Bowl XXX. Cowboys fans are undoubtedly hoping new No. 24 Morris Claiborne eclipses both of them.