IRVING, Texas – It's been called the Christine Michael Hype Train, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan did his best to derail it on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters at his weekly press conference, Linehan was asked about the starting situation among his oft-discussed running back committee. He wouldn't go as far as to name a starter, but he did give a telling indication of what to expect this weekend in New York – particularly when asked about Joseph Randle.
"We haven't really talked about who the starters are. He's certainly going to take a good bulk of our reps," Linehan said. "Start the game or not, we have great expectations for Joe to be there. But I wouldn't anticipate there to be big, huge changes for us at this point at the running back position."
That goes against all of the hype we've heard about Michael in the 11 days since the Cowboys lost, 30-6, to New England. In the aftermath of that loss, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the coaching staff would evaluate the running back position.
Cowboys running back coach Gary Brown gave perhaps the soundbite of the week last Thursday, when he said the coaches intend to increase Michael's role in the offense.
"I think he's where he needs to be, and we want to take the reins off him and let him rock," Brown said.
A quote like that understandably conjures up images of a 20-carry afternoon for the Texas native. That might not be the case, but Michael said he's been told his role will increase as the Cowboys go forward with their season.
"Yeah, I mean they said that, and like I said, I'm just going to help to do my part," Michael said. "Whatever that bigger part consists of, I'm going to just do what I have to do."
The third-year veteran was asked to elaborate and chuckled – he quite simply didn't have an answer.
"I'm just as clueless as you are," he said. "Those guys did say I'm going to get a little bit more carries, but we'll see on Sunday."
On the positive side of things, it won't be hard for the Cowboys to give more work to Michael – or C-Mike, as he's been dubbed at Valley Ranch. After spending the first weeks of the season inactive, he's received two total carries in Weeks 4 and 5 – one carry per game.
"Yeah, I mean it's tough," Michael said. "But like I said, I'm happy with anything to contribute to this team. It's a good team, it's a great offense and I'm just happy to be a part of it. If one carry is all I get, I'm blessed to get that."
It's hard to predict much beyond that, but there's no doubt the Dallas ground game could use a jolt. The Cowboys are currently ranked 18th in the league in rushing yards per game, at 106.6. By contrast, that was all the way up at 147.1 yards per game last fall.
Of the two running backs ahead of Michael, neither Randle nor Darren McFadden is averaging four yards per carry with their opportunities. That should open the door for Michael to some capacity.
"Yeah, we'd like to get him more opportunities in the offense as opposed to limited or one short-yardage play here," Linehan said. "We feel like he's ready for some more carries."[embeddedad0]
So maybe the C-Mike Hype Train isn't derailed after all. But it's going to be an eager wait – for Michael, and even for Linehan – to see how far it can go this weekend.
"Excited for his opportunities, whatever those may be, to go out and show us what he's capable of," Linehan said. "We've seen it in little spurts, seen it in practice, seen two plays in games here, so we're excited for him to take advantage of the opportunities he gets."