Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published ****If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys***, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.*
IRVING, Texas – When the Cowboys lost Dez Bryant for several weeks with a foot injury, it left running back Lance Dunbar as the most explosive offensive player on the team.
Now, the Cowboys will be without Dunbar for the rest of the season after he suffered what the Cowboys believe to be a torn ACL. Head coach Jason Garrett met with reporters Monday afternoon, before the team received the official MRI results, but even he felt it was safe to assume Dunbar would be gone.
"It doesn't look good. We anticipate him having a torn ACL," Garrett said. "We'll determine when he's going to have his surgery as the week goes on."
Garrett also said Dunbar's roster spot will be one of the slots used to activate both Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain, who will now be available after each served four-game suspensions.
And when asked if the Cowboys had any interest in acquiring another running back, Garrett said it's not necessary, considering the three tailbacks that were suited up for Sunday's game with the Saints: Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Christine Michael.
Still, Garrett said replacing Dunbar won't be an easy chose.
"Our offense can do a lot of things in a lot of different ways," Garrett said of Dunbar. "Lance was a weapon for us and we use him as a weapon in a lot of different ways to impact our offense and impact the game. To say we have someone in house who can do the same kinds of things – I don't know if we have someone like that. But we do have guys in house who can do different things and hopefully we'll play to their strengths."
Dunbar tied his career high for the longest rush from scrimmage with a 45-yard run early in the game. He never caught a pass Sunday night, despite entering the game leading the team in receiving yards (215) and tied with Jason Witten for most catches with 21.
"He's just a really good football player, and he has been a good player since he has been with us," Garrett said. "He has gotten more opportunities since he has been with us. I think it just shows how versatile and productive of a player he can be. He ran the ball from the backfield. He has shown he can catch out of the backfield and line up as a receiver and catch the ball and make plays. He's a good return guy. He's one of the guys that when the ball is in his hands, he does a lot of positive things for your football team. He's a hell of a kid and he's going to come back, handle it the right way and be better than ever."
But now the attention will turn to McFadden, Randle and Michael. Garrett said he expects all three to have their own roles this week when the Cowboys face the Patriots. He also said the running back-by committee approach might be altered somewhat with Dunbar's setback.
"I think we're always evaluating that, and it will happen naturally with Lance being out," said Garrett. "We'll look at it in practice and games, and we'll look at what we're asking guys to do. We're constantly evaluating that stuff. We like to make it competitive, and we like guys to have to earn their opportunities each week and certainly within the ballgame. We anticipate (Michael) being a part of the mix this week along with Darren and Joe, and we'll see how it goes as the week goes on."