Eatman: Trading For Veteran RB Seems More About Trust Than Competition

IRVING, Texas -  There's a popular phrase often used regarding competition in the NFL, usually at the quarterback spot.

It's been said many times that if a team has two or three quarterbacks, that really they have none.

Now running back is different because there is much more of a rotation. But you wonder if the case could be made here with the Cowboys, who have now added a fourth tailback to the mix.

They have four guys that likely figure into the plans now after trading for Christine Michael. But as the season is now less than a week away, you have to wonder if the Cowboys even have one back that they're truly excited about.

Head coach Jason Garrett didn't say as much in his press conference Monday. He said the reason to bring in Michael was the chance to not only add a talented player to help the team, but someone to create some competition.

But at this point in the season, shouldn't the competition be somewhat settled? One might think but that's what happens when all three of the backs were banged up in camp. One of which – Darren McFadden – took two weeks before he really got going in camp, and he was the one guy the Cowboys really wanted to see the most.

The Cowboys obviously aren't satisfied with the position or they wouldn't have made a trade to get another back. They didn't just claim a guy released, they went out and traded for one. That's not happening at receiver. The Cowboys are satisfied with the top three spots. The Cowboys seem satisfied with every spot at this point, based off what they've seen.

But this running back position, the one that has garnered so much attention this offseason and rightfully so, obviously has either Garrett or Jerry Jones or offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, looking for a little more. And there's really nothing wrong with it.

Personally, I like the Michael trade because really they didn't give up much at all next year. They will get better compensatory picks than what they'll give up for Michael.

But I like the move because it gives this team options. This is simply where we are at the running back spot.You would like to have it ironed out better than this by now, but it didn't happen.

To me, it all comes down to trust. The Cowboys simply can't trust the three backs they had 100 percent, whether it's for injuries or off-field issues or maybe both.

But if the Cowboys have given Joseph Randle the entire offseason to be the No. 1 guy, and yet, a week before the start of the regular season and they felt like they needed to get someone else.

The Cowboys gave the same amount of time for McFadden to show them he still had enough gas in the tank. And while he flashed a few nice plays in the third preseason game, he only carried the ball seven times in the exhibition games. I mean, DeMarco Murray had some drives last year with seven carries.

So they never saw enough of McFadden and there's no way this team can truly trust Dunbar to be anything other than a role player who can get the ball in space. Two things are clear about the Cowboys and Dunbar.

One, they love the role he has for the team. Two, they don't see him ever starting as the lead guy. So Dunbar is just here and he's not going anywhere, including the No. 1 spot.

And that's fine, because Dunbar has shown that he can make a few plays and he'll help some on special teams. It looks like he could be the primary kick returner and then will get some occasional snaps on offense.

[embeddedad0]But from what I've seen of Michael, he seems to be the most complete back – physically of all three. If you look at size, running ability, vision, toughness, quickness, pass protection, hands out of the backfield, and breakaway speed … I would think Michael doesn't rank last in any of those categories, although he might not be first either.

That's why the complete back is so hard to find. Last year, DeMarco Murray was the Cowboys' best option in nearly all of those areas, other than flat-out speed.

Let's see how quickly Michael picks up this offense, but if he can, I don't see any reason why he's not getting a lot of carries by the second or third week of the season.

You can debate all day long why a second-round pick hasn't lived up to expectations. But look no further than the Cowboys' tight ends in the last 10 years. Guys like Anthony Fasano, Martellus Bennett and Gavin Escobar have had no chance to succeed with Jason Witten sitting here. Witten never gets off the field and therefore, these other guys haven't been able to meet expectations.

Bennett made the Pro Bowl last year and is considered one of the better tight ends in the game now, now that he's starting.

You're seeing my point here. Guys nicknamed "Beast Mode" will keep you off the field. So Michael didn't beat out Marshawn Lynch for playing time. And I understand he wasn't even the second option.

But a fresh start might be exactly he needs. Again, we've said the same thing about McFadden, and who knows, maybe we're going to see that work with him as well.

If there's one word we know Garrett doesn't like much it's "comfortable." He never says he's comfortable with a player or position, and doesn't admit that he's not comfortable as well.

But clearly, they weren't satisfied with the three backs they had. Comfortable or not, the Cowboys showed they're at least uneasy with the position. And considering the history of the top three backs, I don't see how the Cowboys couldn't be.  

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