IRVING, Texas – Lance Dunbar grew up watching the Eagles' Darren Sproles, relating to the 5-foot-6, 190-pound running back's ability to impact a game in big ways despite his smaller stature.
"He was one of my favorite players growing up," the 5-foot-8, 195-pound Dunbar said.
The Cowboys' defense once again Sunday must attempt to contain the 32-year-old Sproles. The 11th-year veteran has challenged them on three different teams (San Diego, New Orleans and now Philadelphia) since 2005 as a running back, receiver and returner.
Conversely, Dunbar – a now in his fourth season since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012 – also gives the Cowboys' offense a quick, versatile option out of the backfield.
Sproles accounted for 148 total yards in Week 1 against Atlanta (five carries for 50 yards, seven catches for 76 yards, three punt returns for 24 yards). In a backfield that also features DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews, the Eagles got Sproles involved by playing to his multi-talented strengths.
"He's special," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "You're aware (of him). It's like a big light bulb going off when he's in the game."
Dunbar gave the Cowboys a similar boost in Week 1 against the Giants. He didn't have a carry behind Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden, but he caught a team-high eight passes for 70 yards, including two big receptions to start the winning fourth-quarter drive. He also had three kickoff returns for 70 yards.[embeddedad0]
"Well, I think you would say that they're similar backs in that they're regarded as being undersized guys and they're really good space players," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "I think anytime you have a player like that you're trying to give the opportunities out in space, whether it's a one-on one type situation or somehow, some way just simply getting the ball in his hand.
"Lance has done a good job for us whenever we've given him the opportunities to do that. Did a really good job in that game the other day. Sproles has been doing it for a long, long time."