*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features running back Lance Dunbar.*
Name: Lance Dunbar
Experience: 3 seasons
College: North Texas
Key stat:Poor Lance Dunbar. Every time something good happens, it's immediately followed by something bad – think back to 2013, when he was injured immediately following long gains against Arizona and Oakland. After a disappointing 2014 season, he finally ripped off a phenomenal, 80-yard touchdown run in Week 17 against Washington – but of course it was called back by a holding flag.
Contract Status:Signed through 2015
2014 Impact: If there was a player I was surprised wasn't used more in this offensive scheme during the season, it was Lance Dunbar. From what I had seen from the OTA and minicamp practices, it appeared that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had some specific packages to get him more involved but other than the Tennessee and Seattle games, it was really hit-and-miss on his consistent opportunities. For him to only have 29 carries and 18 receptions on the season is something I'm sure this coaching staff will look back on in their offseason evaluation and say that was not nearly the work that his talent deserved. Dunbar is a weapon, especially in the passing game, when they were able to create matchups like they did in the Seahawks game. There is more to his game than just running screens and swings. I have always felt, even going back to his days in college, that his hands were exceptional and when paired with his initial quickness and burst he can be a difficult player to defend. He is a creative runner with the ball. He has always shown the ability to play with balance and body control. Where he has struggled in the past is with his strength and power -- which has always been average to below at best. To his credit, he showed the ability to run with toughness in the Titans game down the stretch to close. Shows that same toughness on special teams. It is core player that is always going to do his job and not make those critical mistakes that is going to get you beat. Is a winner in every sense of the word. Keeps his mouth shut and is a respect teammate for how he goes about his business.
Where He Fits: The club brought him back on tender to continue his work on the offense and special teams. If this club keeps just three running backs in 2015, his special teams ability is going to be the difference. I could see a situation where he is paired with Darren McFadden and a possible draft choice. I'd like to see him used more in some different packages to highlight his skill. I am wondering if the coaches are thinking the same thing? He is one of those players that he helps you win, regardless of where you play him.
David Helman:Normally when you talk about a disappointing season, you're blaming the player. In Lance Dunbar's case, I think you've got to assign a certain amount of responsibility to the coaching staff. Throughout last offseason and into training camp, we heard Dunbar mentioned by name as a valuable difference maker – particularly due to the arrival of Scott Linehan. In Detroit, Linehan showed a tendency to get running backs the ball in more ways than one – particularly the passing game. I don't think we ever thought Dunbar was going to lead the team in rushing or receiving, but I certainly could have imagined him tallying 50-80 carries and another 30-40 receptions. Instead, he touched the ball a measly 47 times on offense – an average of less than three touches per game -- and averaged 6.7 yards per touch. DeMarco Murray's amazing 2014 season obviously played a role in that, and I think the team's decision to bring Dunbar back means they're hoping to improve his role now that Murray has moved on. I don't think Dunbar's ever going to be more than a second or third running back, but I still think he's valuable and dangerous – provided you use him.