It doesn't take an NFL scout to see that when DeMarco Murray was not in the lineup, this offense was completely different in their attempt to run the ball. In a media session with offensive line coach Bill Callahan he even addressed Murray's ability and how he made his line's jobs easier but even taking that a step further, Murray made Tony Romo's job easier. Without Murray in the lineup, this offense found itself playing behind the chains at stretches and that put even more pressure on Romo to have to convert plays. Murray simply does things with the ball in his hands that Felix Jones could not. Murray's vision and power made him difficult to defend because when plays were not blocked cleanly, he was able to make something out of nothing. Jones didn't show that kind of ability. He tended to get what was blocked and this offense needed more than just what was blocked.
As this team prepares for the decisions that they face in this off season, running back is one of those positions that will need their attention. There are no questions about who will be the starter in 2013 but who will the backups be? Felix Jones is in the final year of his deal and will most likely not be resigned. The organization did the best they could to try and help him develop but the expectations of the front office were not met and with that being the case, it is time to move on. Both Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner are young players that at times had showed promise, matter of fact I really had hope for Tanner and how he finished the Carolina game I thought was a step in the right direction but he started playing less and less. It appeared that the coaches lost confidence in him not only as a running back but on special teams as well which led to him being inactive the last two weeks of the season. Dunbar is an interesting player because of his physical ability but he will need to find more of a role than just that of a special teamer.
If I had to project what might happen at this position, my gut tells me that Murray and Dunbar will be back with Jones and Tanner looking for work elsewhere. The front office is going to have to address this position through the draft at some point and time because they cannot believe that they will go into the season with Dunbar as the backup because that would be foolish with the health history of Murray. What the Cowboys will look for is a back that has similar traits as Murray, one that can physically run the ball but be an effective pass catcher and an efficient blitz pickup back. It's never easy to find those complete backs but it is not impossible.
The offseason will also be different for this position because Jason Garrett has made a switch at running back coach in moving on from Skip Peete. I have grown to respect Skip and the job he was able to. Usually in my experience when there is a staff change there is a difference of philosophy or the head coach doesn't like the message that the coach is providing the players thus the change. There is no doubt that Skip Peete will land on his feet but I hated to see it was his time to go but change is a big part of this business and you accept that when you take one of these jobs.