IRVING, Texas - The Cowboys are changing the starting quarterback. They're also switching out left guards.
One position the Cowboys haven't officially altered but could see a new look next week is running back. The Cowboys have yet find the same success on the ground like they did last year with DeMarco Murray, as none of the replacements have even recorded a 100-yard game.
The Cowboys even claimed a running back off waivers in Rod Smith, who was recently cut by the Seahawks.
The club now has four backs on the active roster heading into the next game. Each of the writers on DallasCowboys.com have weighed in on how they would approach the division of carries amongst the running backs moving forward.
Bryan Broaddus:I never like to play the blame game – so to say that it's the running backs or offensive line's fault for the lack of productivity is the wrong approach. I will say that when things are not working, you need to cast a critical eye to the issue and work to solve with the best possible solution. What I have seen from Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden has been disappointing. In Randle I am not seeing that same guy from 2014 that ran the ball like he didn't know when he was going to get his next carry. Everything from him now is a cutback or a poor-vision hole miss. I have yet to see that violence he played with last season. As far as McFadden, I have to admit I was wrong about him. I thought I would have seen an explosive slasher – instead he has been running like he is looking for a place to go down. He hasn't been able to create any opportunities and he is playing like he is afraid of getting hurt. It is time to see what Christine Michael can do. I believe for this running game to get going they need to find a back that is a finisher similar to what they had in DeMarco Murray. When this offense was humming – it was because they were able to run the ball no matter how many were in the box. I'm willing to bet with Christine Michael in the lineup this offense can reclaim that identity.
Nick Eatman:The Cowboys traded for Christine Michael as more of an insurance policy in case these running backs didn't get the job done. Whether it's all their fault or not, the job isn't getting done. And what the offense misses the most is keeping the chains moving with first downs. So for more reasons than one, it just makes sense to switch up the running back spot right now and go to Michael, a player who is stronger, bigger but seemingly just as quick. The offense needs a power back in here and that's what Michael should provide. If I were getting to divvy up the carries, I would start Michael, use McFadden in the role Dunbar had as a third-down back, and then I would rotate Randle in just like he did last year. So in 2014, you had Murray, Dunbar and Randle. Now, I would go with Michael, McFadden and Randle but I'd probably rotate the 1 & 3 more than we saw last year. Randle is explosive if he's getting just a handful of carries. And then who knows what Rod Smith can provide but it looks like he's a possible goal-line and short-yardage option if Michael doesn't provide that. I don't like changing just to change, but this is a situation where change is certainly needed.
David Helman:Change is good, but I feel like change can be slow on a variety of fronts in the NFL. Yes, the running back position will probably be different when all is said and done against the Giants in 10 days. But I don't think it'll be drastically different. It's hard for me to imagine Christine Michael climbing from one carry per game to becoming this team's leading rusher. Jason Garrett even alluded to the fact that he still considers Joseph Randle his starter earlier this week. Yes, Randle and McFadden have been disappointing through five weeks. But the Cowboys have now swapped quarterbacks, and they've made a change along the offensive line. I'm curious to see how it looks different, but I'd be willing to bet it still looks familiar. I think Michael can bring a spark to this offense, but there's something to be said for McFadden's abilities as a receiver – and we now what Randle is capable of in the right situations. I bet when all is said and done, it looks more similar than you'd think: Randle as the lead dog, with key contributions coming behind him.
Rob Phillips: I'm not sure who starts really matters, because at this point, it seems the Cowboys must go with the back who's producing most over the course of the game. Maybe that's Joseph Randle, and maybe that's Christine Michael with Darren McFadden reprising Lance Dunbar's previous role. I expect Michael to get more than one carry a game going forward, because they need to find out if he can be a difference maker in more than short-yardage situations. Like the rest of the offense, the running game needs a jumpstart. But Randle, in my opinion, has run hard and maximized his carries a lot of the time. Has it been perfect? No, but we've seen him get tough yards at times, look comfortable as a receiver and block pretty effectively. Maybe Michael could provide a more physical presence. I will say it's been difficult to fully evaluate these running backs and the offensive line without the two most important players on offense, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, on the field. Next week I would stick with Randle as the starter, work Michael into the mix more, and adjust accordingly based on performance.