OXNARD, Calif.– The 31st best rushing team in the league typically won't win a Super Bowl.
Head coach Jason Garrett knows the Cowboys need to get better on the ground and start helping Tony Romo from having to do too much by himself. Romo tied a career-high last season with 19 interceptions, while the Cowboys went a third straight season with 10 rushing touchdowns or fewer.
"We've got to run the football better, and we've got to run the football more," Garrett said. "That's going to make our offensive line better, it's going to make our quarterback better, certainly our tight end and our receivers better and our defense better. And I think when you do that, you spread the burden."
The lack of a running game forced the Cowboys to throw early and often in games, usually resulting in a multitude of turnovers and come-from-behind attempts to try to salvage a late victory. Romo threw 648 passes in 2012 and had never thrown more than 550 passes in a previous season.
The Cowboys also finished with 50 rushing yards or fewer in seven games and recorded just 20 rushing plays or fewer in six.
"Given where we were last year, we did what we did," Garrett said. "But you certainly want more balance. You certainly want to take the burden off the quarterback and allow him to make a lot of the plays that he's made through the years and minimize some of the mistakes that he's made, particularly in relation to the ball.
"If you look at different seasons in his career, (Romo)'s had seasons where he's had three and four more times touchdowns than he has interceptions. So he's capable of doing it. That's what we expect and demand of him, and that's what he demands of himself."
Romo had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of around 3-to-1 in 2009 and 2011, after playing in just six games in 2010. That ratio dramatically decreased to less than a 2-to-1 ratio last season, when he finished with nine more touchdown passes than interceptions.
The focus early in camp is on fixing those ratios to a point where the Cowboys can be successful and Romo's arm won't be the only way to win. Garrett said teams can win games without a stellar running attack, but it makes everything a lot tougher.
"You always strive for balance," he said. "It takes pressure off of everybody on the offense, on the defense, throughout the football team, and that's what we're going to try to do."
The Cowboys didn't do much changing the offensive line from last season, adding only one key piece in center Travis Frederick. But they did bring in running back Joseph Randle to add to the stable of backs and believe Lance Dunbar has also taken strides since last season.
DeMarco Murray said balance is crucial for the Cowboys' offense and for Romo to operate to his capabilities. For him and the offensive line, the key will be continuity and staying on the field.
Murray only played in 10 games last season and ran behind a plethora of players since last season after injuries across the line. Ideally, he'd like to know which players will be blocking for him on the line, but he's not overly concerned about the starting lineup.
"You would want the same five guys," Murray said. "But at the same time, I've been playing this position for a long time. No matter who is up there, I have to make plays. I have to continue to work on my craft and have tunnel-vision. You'd like to have the same five guys, but things happen. The next guy has to be prepared to step up." [embedded_ad]
One major difference for the offense and the running game this season will be the focus on the two tight-end set. The Cowboys cut Lawrence Vickers this offseason, leaving the group without a true fullback for training camp.
Murray said at different times it can actually be easier to run out of a one-back set, since defenses likely won't load the box up and bring in extra defenders. That can clog holes, so he's looking forward to seeing what the Cowboys' offense will look like more spread out.
"It's a little different, but it's something I'm definitely looking forward to," he said. "I love running out of different personnel. Vick was a great fullback and I wish him the best. It was a tough deal, but this is definitely something I look forward to."