*(Editor's Note: Over the next two weeks, football analyst Bryan Broaddus will take a closer look at each position, highlighting the standouts and players who need more production. Today, we will focus on the Running Back position.) *
Running Back Breakdown
Top Performer: DeMarco Murray
If there was a player that came into the season with a chip on his shoulder, it was DeMarco Murray. Right or wrong, there was talk about his ability to stay healthy and complete an entire 16-game schedule. To his credit, he came into camp in outstanding shape and looked prepared to handle whatever Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan were going to put on his plate.
Murray was able to make it to the sixth game of the season, but he suffered a knee sprain and missed the Philadelphia and Detroit games, which was disappointing. With Murray in the lineup, this offense did a much better job of running the ball despite some games where Callahan limited his number of carries.
When Murray did get opportunities to carry the ball, he was able to run with a purpose. He has never had elusive speed or quickness and there had even been some questions about his vision -- which I always felt was one of his strengths. Where Murray has shown the most improvement has been those carries in the red zone and getting the ball in on tough situations.
His four rushing touchdowns is a career high, and with six more games remaining, he is sure to add to that total. His seven yard run against the Saints was executed well by the line, but his effort and balance to finish the play were what made it work.
Whether it is handing or throwing him the ball, it has not been a bad option for Bill Callahan to consider.
Need More From: Joseph Randle
With the way that DeMarco Murray is playing, these running backs do not get many opportunities to carry the ball and in a way that is a shame. I would like to see Lance Dunbar have more chances to use his speed and quickness more on offensive snaps than just on special teams. [embedded_ad]
If there is going to be a player that will get more chances, it is rookie Joseph Randle in that reserve role. Randle made two starts this season in the Philadelphia and Detroit game while Murray was sidelined with the sprained knee. Against the Eagles, he had a much better showing with 19 carries for 65 yards, which was the type of day that this offense needed from the rookie.
What I would like to see from Randle is that when he does get those opportunities to run the ball, he continues to work to finish his runs and make it hard for defenders to bring him down in the open field. He has the size and power to be a violent runner and punish defenders.
I would also like to see him to continue to grow as a pass blocker. From my experience, it is not easy for a rookie running back to come into the league and pick up protections from the word "Go." The faster he improves in this area, the more confidence the coaches will have to put him in the game.
For the rest of this schedule, and if this team manages to find itself in the playoffs, the Cowboys are going to need to run the football.
Whether it's to gain a key first down or finish a game, running the ball is going to have to take place. When Tony Romo turns and hands the ball to one of these backs, something positive has to happen.
DeMarco Murray, in my opinion, gives me hope that if things do become tight and tough that he can grind out yards if he has to. Maybe Murray's finest hour was his game against Cincinnati last season, where the offense was having trouble running the ball with any consistency in the game but when they needed big plays from their running back to get the ball in field goal range, they put it in Murray's hands and he was able to deliver.
In these last six games, that is the DeMarco Murray they need.