ARLINGTON, Texas– This running back battle isn't going anywhere for a while, and that seems to be exactly the way head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys want it.
Speaking before Wednesday's minicamp practice, which was moved to AT&T Stadium because of heavy rainfall in the area, Garrett spoke highly of his top three running backs, making it clear that this will be a rather competitive battle for the starting job.
Darren McFadden, who has battled injuries his entire career with the Raiders, and has been somewhat slowed by a hamstring injury issue the last few weeks, caught Garrett's eye during Tuesday's practice.
"He did a nice job yesterday," Garrett said. "He practiced more than he had over the last couple of weeks. You can see why he was drafted as high as he was, and how he's been regarded as one of the more talented backs in the league. He can run. I think he's got a good feel for running, and I think he's picking up our offense fairly well. It was the most extensive work in a little while. I think he's responding well to it."
But make no mistake, McFadden certainly doesn't have the upper hand because he was a former first-round pick, or the fact that he went to Arkansas like both Jerry and Stephen Jones. Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar will get plenty of looks, too.
"We're excited about the opportunity we're going to give those guys," Garrett said. "Joe Randle has been here a couple of years, as has Lance. Those guys are good players. If you go back and watch their tape and say, 'Let's watch Randle play or let's watch Dunbar play. Let's watch their reel,' you'd be impressed by what they did. Those guys are comfortable with our offense. Those guys are comfortable playing next to guys in this scheme. We're looking to give them more opportunities."
Garrett put McFadden in a different category because he's still learning the offense somewhat.
"He is a newer guy obviously, so we're trying to get him out on the practice field as much as he can to allow him to get comfortable with what we're doing schematically and also just with the guys," Garrett said. "But I thought (Tuesday) was a good day for him and there will be plenty of more opportunities as we go into training camp."
Last year, Randle backed up DeMarco Murray and rushed for 343 yards on 51 attempts. His 6.7 yard average led the team. When asked Wednesday if he views that season differently because Randle was limited in his role, which was often late in games, Garrett applauded Randle for staying ready for his chances.
"You control what you can control. He had opportunities at different times where he went in for one play in the middle of a quarter and was productive," Garrett said of Randle. "We just try to emphasize that to our players. If you get an opportunity, be prepared for it, whether it's in practice, a scrimmage, a preseason game or a regular-season game. I thought Joe did a really nice job of that last year. At that position, sometimes it's not always easy. But in a pinch-hitting role last year, he handled himself well and took advantage of those opportunities. I'm excited to see him more."
Other backs on the roster include Ryan Williams, who has battled injuries his entire career and has been slowed by foot issues this offseason. The Cowboys also signed Lache Seastrunk, an explosive runner with speed who has plenty of catching up to do in terms of learning the system.