IRVING, Texas – Cowboys running back Joseph Randle isn't sure how many carries he can expect next season. But he plans to earn the team's trust this offseason, and if he earns the starting job, he believes he's ready to pick up where the departed DeMarco Murray left off.
"He (Murray) had a good year last year," Randle said Wednesday in reference to Murray's single-season franchise-record 1,845 yards. "But I got to sit back and watch a lot and I felt like there was a lot of meat left on the bone. I'm going to try to go out there and grind as hard as I can."
As Murray's primary backup last year, Randle had 51 carries for 343 yards (6.7 avg.) with three touchdowns.
His talent is evident, but Randle admits he has something else to prove besides on-field improvement: maturity following a pair of off-the-field incidents in a four-month span between last October and February.
"Everything you go through in life you learn from it," he said. "I learned from it and moved past it. I've grown up. I made some young and silly mistakes but I'm moving forward."
Randle and offseason signing Darren McFadden have gotten reps with the first-team offense during the first two days of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs). It's a crowded group; both are competing for carries with Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams, and the Cowboys are open to adding more competition to the current running back depth chart, having worked out four veterans last week.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan says he "can't wait to see" what Randle can do with more opportunity.
"I don't think there's any reason he can't have a real productive year for us," Linehan said. "It's really too hard to say what the production's going to be and who's going to get it. We'll let that play itself out as the year goes on, but certainly he's going to have more opportunities to have a more significant role for us and I can't wait to see him do it. He's really working hard and doing a great job of getting himself prepared, and I think the competition we have at the running back position is really healthy and is really going to help us."
Murray was a three-down player last year, and his 392 carries were also a single-season franchise record. It seems unlikely the Cowboys will ask one player to shoulder that much work again, but Randle wants to show he can be a go-to rusher and a solid blocker for quarterback Tony Romo.
"If they ask me to do that, I'm ready for it," he said. "That means they believe I'm ready for it, and if they believe in me I believe in myself. That's for sure.
"Just be here day in and day out, earning Tony's trust and all the older guys' trust, the whole team's trust, including the coaching staff. I've got a lot of work to do and we have a lot of time go out and make the most of each day."