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Last Time Out: Grading The RBs & FBs in 2013


(Editor's Note: In conjunction with the position series, here's a look back at how each player performed last season. Today's piece features the running backs.)

DeMarco Murray --The second half of 2013 was undoubtedly the strongest stretch of Murray's young career. After an up-and-down start to the season, which saw him miss two of the first eight games due to injury, he exploded down the stretch. Murray averaged roughly 96 yards per game from Week 9 onward, highlighted by a 146-yard effort against Chicago and a 134-yard day against Green Bay. He finished with 1,121 yards, becoming the first Cowboys' running back to gain 1,000 yards since Julius Jones in 2006. His strong finish to the season earned him his first Pro Bowl selection.

Lance Dunbar --The vast majority of Dunbar's second season was largely forgettable, as he managed just 18 carries between Week 1 and Week 12. During Week 13, however, he showed off the gamebreaking potential that has excited fans for the past two years. Dunbar ripped off 82 yards on just 12 carries against the Raiders, and he added a catch for 12 yards. That's an average of seven yards per touch. Unfortunately for Dunbar and the Cowboys, he was lost for the season with a knee injury, showcasing his frustrating inability to stay healthy.

Joseph Randle --Randle was drafted to carry the load if Murray got hurt last year, and that's exactly what he had to do in Week 6, Week 7 and Week 8. The rookie was the Cowboys' primary running back in road trips to Philadelphia and Detroit, where he combined for 33 carries and 91 yards. Following Murray's return, Randle disappeared from the offense. He carried the ball just 10 times from the start of November, and nine of those were in mop-up duty in the loss to Chicago.

Ryan Williams --Williams said he was fully healthy for the duration of the 2013 season, but he didn't get a single carry in his third year with the Cardinals. After being sidelined with injuries during the 2011 and 2012 season, Arizona did not activate their former second-round pick last season. At the end of the day, Williams has to be considered a bust for the Cardinals. He was taken 38th overall in 2011, and he finished his stint in Arizona with just 58 carries for 164 yards and no touchdowns.

Ben Malena --Like Dunbar, the first thing one notices about Malena is his short stature. He proved himself plenty capable of carrying a big workload at Texas A&M, however. He ran for 551 yards on 115 carries for the Aggies last season, and he managed 808 yards on 138 carries in 2012. He showcased decent hands, as well, with 190 yards on 21 receptions.

Tyler Clutts --Clutts' arrival on the roster in December last year seemed to signal the end of the "12 personnel" experiment the Cowboys were so big on last year. He played the final month of the season as the Cowboys' fullback after playing the first month of the season for Miami. Clutts deserves at least a little bit of credit for reinvigorating the Cowboys' ground game, as his blocking helped pave the way for DeMarco Murray's strong second half. Unfortunately for him, perhaps the biggest moment of his season came in Week 16 against Washington. With the Cowboys leading by eight points, Clutts fumbled on the third play of the second half and Washington recovered. The turnover sparked a rally that saw Dallas fall  behind by nine before Tony Romo rallied the Cowboys for the win.

J.C. Copeland --Copeland, who was a bowling ball blocker for LSU for two seasons, was one of the first undrafted free agents the Cowboys signed in the aftermath of the draft. He started 22 times during two seasons as the Tigers' primary fullback. One look at his massive size will tell you all you need to know about his job description, but he has also shown decent ability to catch the ball. Copeland finished his college career with seven receptions for 85 yards, with a career-long of 42 in a 2012 game against Alabama. His wrecking ball stature also made him a valuable goal line player, as he scored seven career touchdowns on just 36 carries.

Scout's Take:There is going to be some serious competition between Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams if this front office decides that it can only keep three running backs on the roster. But a player that you should not lose track of, because he is going to get plenty of work in the second half of these preseason games, is rookie Ben Malena. If you never saw him during his career at Texas A&M, you are in for a treat. He doesn't have the perfect height for a running back, but he is extremely tough and talented with the ball in his hands. He is explosive to and through the hole with the ball in his hands and he knows how to finish runs. Where Malena should shine as well is with his work on special teams, which gives him an advantage over Randle and Williams. Numbers might not be in Malena's favor, but my gut says that he could make himself difficult to release after training camp with his play.– Bryan Broaddus

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