IRVING, Texas – Maybe it means the offense is so polished. Or maybe it's because it's a premiere position on the team. Or maybe it's somewhere in between.
But for some reason, the battle for the third-team running back spot is one of the more discussed topics these days for the Cowboys, especially when it comes to the offense.
While Ryan Williams is coming off a strong game and has the name recognition of a former second-round pick who has battled constant injuries, second-year pro Joseph Randle is trying to make sure he's not lost in the shuffle.
DeMarco Murray's job is pretty safe for this year and Lance Dunbar has carved out a nice role for himself as a third-down, change-of-pace back.
But after that is up in the air … unless you're talking to Randle.
"I don't really think about that," Randle said. "We're always competing out here. That's never going to change. But I don't look at it like I'm going up against (Williams) every day."
And maybe he's right. Maybe the Cowboys are planning on keeping four running backs – something the club did a year ago when Murray, Dunbar, Randle and Phillip Tanner all made the team.
Randle, a fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2013, had a solid rookie year, playing mostly on special teams, although he did fill in for an injured Murray with his first two career starts.
Overall, Randle had 54 carries for 164 yards (3.0 per attempt) with two touchdowns. More than his stats, he said the game has slowed down in his mind.
"I think the game is slowing down for me because I know the playbook," Randle admitted. "I don't have to think twice out there. I just go out there and be my best. I feel like I'm bigger, I'm stronger, I'm smarter. I'm a year smarter in the playbook. I think those are all things that help me play fast. Now, I'm just working on playing fast every play I'm out there. That comes with practice."
The player Randle describes is pretty close to the guy head coach Jason Garrett sees as well, praising the back for improving his game in all areas. [embedded_ad]
"He has had a great camp. He has matured in a lot of ways," Garrett said of Randle. "He has run the ball well. He has protected well. He has showed up on special teams. He has become the player we thought he was coming out of school – a well-rounded halfback who can contribute on teams as a third runner."
Maybe that was Garrett giving us a hint as to where he thinks Randle will end up on the depth chart.
But while Randle and Williams are getting compared against each other more for their running-back abilities, the difference between the two might come down to special teams more than anything else. When it comes to experience on special teams, that's where Randle might have the edge on Williams.
In the preseason opener in San Diego, Randle led the team with 50 rushing yards, but it was an open-field tackle covering a kickoff that might have been his most important play.
"I'm just trying to make sure I'm doing my part to help this team be where it needs to be, on top," Randle said of special teams. "I don't worry about the past. I'm just focusing on what I'm doing right now, what I'm doing this next meeting, what I'm doing at tomorrow's practice. I've just got to live right now, and I think I'm doing that."