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Mailbag: Should A Different Running Back Be Used More?


Why aren't we seeing Phillip Tanner getting any carries at all in recent games, especially after the outstanding preseason he had?

David: Up until DeMarco Murray got hurt, it was kind of a wasteland for all of the Cowboys' backups, wasn't it? There are three running backs on the roster who aren't named DeMarco Murray, and they had combined for 11 carries and 39 yards when Murray went down during the middle of a Week 6 game. Whether it's because they don't trust the backups or they simply think Murray is that much better, the Cowboys don't seem too terribly interested in incorporating multiple backs into the gameplan. Now that Murray is hurt, the logic seems simple – this is why they drafted Joseph Randle. The entire selling point behind his selection in the draft was to help Murray carry the load and spell him if he became banged up. My guess is we'll see Tanner get some snaps this weekend, especially because of his proficiency as a pass protector. But it's Randle's rock for the time being, and it will once again be Murray's when he returns.

Rowan: Randle couldn't get any carries before the Redskins game, and Dunbar could hardly get any before he got hurt, so the next running back on the depth chart didn't stand much of a chance. But Tanner did run forcefully during the preseason and should get some burn this week with the rookie handling the majority of the load. It'll be interesting to see how the Cowboys handle third down situations. Randle's probably the better receiver, but Tanner might be a more advanced pass blocker. I expect to see more spread formations.

With Dwayne Harris' special teams play, is the offense overlooking him as a playmaking receiver?

David:I don't think it's a matter of being overlooked, but there's a finite amount of room on the field. Harris obviously has the potential to make plays, as he showed on Sunday night. But I'm not sure what he brings to the receiver spot that no one else does. Dez Bryant and [embedded_ad] Terrance Williams have earned spots on the field with their play over the course of the season and Miles Austin is an established veteran with reliable hands. Given a chance, Cole Beasley has really shown what he can do with his shiftiness in the slot. That's not to say Harris won't get any opportunities – I'm sure he will. But his skillset doesn't seem to bring anything new to the field that the other guys don't provide.

Rowan: There's too many other weapons on the outside right now. Harris has played much better on special teams than as a receiver with a couple drops to his name this year, and it's hard enough to find a way to get Cole Beasley on the field. I don't want to look for more ways to keep Beasley out of the offense. They need to work him in more, and with Terrance Williams finding a bit of a groove on deeper routes and Miles Austin slowly recovering to go alongside Dez Bryant, I don't think they're overlooking Harris.

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