IRVING, Texas – It stands to reason the Cowboys would address their running back depth after releasing Joseph Randle, and they did that by signing Trey Williams on Wednesday.
It doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence, though, does it?
For those keeping track at home, the running backs behind Darren McFadden have a combined 66 career carries to their name. The overwhelming majority of those belong to Christine Michael, who has toted the rock 64 times in his career. Rod Smith received two carries for the Seahawks earlier this season, and Williams has never played in a regular season NFL game.
The troubling depth chart isn't entirely on the Cowboys. It's hard to predict that Lance Dunbar would tear his ACL after just 25 percent of the season. Given his history, though, it was somewhat easy to predict that Joseph Randle wasn't a reliable option as a major piece of the running game.
The fact that the Cowboys were willing to release him on Tuesday, despite their thin backfield, speaks volumes about the problems he's facing right now, and I don't want to make light of those. But it's staggering how different this running back group looks now, without a guy with 38 games and several career starts under his belt.
Call me a pessimist, but I can't help but feel like it's going to bite them. McFadden has been solid in his two starting opportunities since Randle got injured, but his durability remains uninspiring. The only 16-game season of his career was last year, and he only carried the ball 155 times. With 86 carries through seven games, he's more than halfway to that total already – and he's only been receiving the majority of the touches for two weeks.
Can McFadden stay healthy? And if he stays healthy, can he stay productive? With Randle out of the picture, it doesn't sound like an exaggeration to say the success of the Cowboys' offense relies on both.
Without him, there's Michael – whose career-high for carries is nine, which he managed in his first-ever NFL game. To reiterate: the two guys behind him have next-to-no experience at this level.
Is that enough reason to keep Randle around and deal with whatever headaches he might cause? It's honestly hard for me to say, considering I don't know the full spectrum of what he's dealing with. But he provided at least some semblance of comfort, even as a No. 2 running back, as a guy who could spell the starter or carry the load if necessary.
The Cowboys value the run highly these days, especially with the stalwart offensive line they've put together. Right now, there isn't much of a contingency plan behind McFadden – not one that inspires much confidence, at any rate.
I'm not going to be surprised if, for one reason or another, the Cowboys aren't done signing running backs this season. If that's the case, it means the ground game is in trouble.