The tailback positionÂ for the Dallas Cowboys so farÂ in 2014 is DeMarco Murray and the Pips. Now those Pips: Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle have performed well in their backup roles through the first two games. Dunbar has been a credible threat as a receiver and Joseph Randle has been a beast on Special Teams coverage groups. Notable in its absence is my description of either tailbacks’ running prowess. Don’t get me wrong. Randle ran well enough to get the yards that were blocked against the Titans last week. He was an adequate tailback filling in for Murray when #29 needed to get a blow.
We are seeing that the preseason hype for this offensive line is warranted for their run blocking skills. Conversely, there have been some serious issues with the pass protection for this Cowboys offense. We know that Tony Romo is not 100% healthy physically. HisÂ back is sore & hisÂ mechanics have been up & down.Â My problem with Romo has been more in how he is seeing the field and in his decision-making these first two weeks. While Doug Free has started to look like the very poor 2012 version and not the slightly above average 2013 version, I believe the majority of the issues with the pass protection should lie right at Romo’s feet. More specifically with his eyes and his head. He has consistently failed to see theÂ free runningÂ blitzers and hasn’t accurately hit the hot reads when he did see them.
Where does that leave the Dallas Cowboys? It leaves them with a dominant run game and a sputtering passing attack. Very quickly, the strength of this offense has moved from the passing game and quarterback Tony Romo, to the rushing attack and tailback DeMarco Murray. It is not clear whether that will change as Tony Romo gets more game time. Hopefully the passing game does improve but, right now, theÂ Cowboys need to lean heavily on their Pro Bowl tailback to move the ball. The problem with this is that Murray has a well-documented injury history that looms like a dark cloud over this fantastic start to his season. To complicate matters more, Lance Dunbar has a similarly bleak injury history and Joseph Randle is currently going through the NFL’s concussion protocols in order to get cleared to hit the field.
All of that bring me to this conclusion: the Cowboys need to bring Ryan Williams up to the active roster right now & keep him there. When you have a stable of tailbacks that all have injury concerns, the best way to maximize their outputÂ is to minimize their exposure. In reviewing the preseason action, it is clear that the team made the right decision on keeping Joseph Randle on the active over Ryan Williams. That position must contribute on special teams and Randle has made the coaches and front office look brilliant with his eye-opening work on the coverage units. If he’s healthy, Randle needs to continue in this role.
So why bring up Williams? He has shown an ability to run the ball well above what we have seen from Randle and, after all, running the ball IS the main job of a tailback. I believe Ryan Williams is a very good running back and an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. If anything happened to DeMarco MurrayÂ during a game, Williams would be the best chance for the Cowboys to maintain their rushing attack at a dominant and not just an adequate level. With the defense starting to build confidence and the offensive line being far better at run blocking, that is a contingency for which the coaches need to be prepared. Even if Murray stays healthy, the type of balance the Cowboys have shown will require more than 30 carries per game. While Dunbar can take 4-5 carries out ofÂ passing formations, the team still needs someone with above average tailback skills to take another 5-10 carries. The more I think about the roles for these tailbacks, the more I think that Ryan Williams could fill the Lance Dunbar role with far better running ability.
The last part of this requires the ability to cut someone who the team hopes will pass through waivers & be eligible for the practice squad. IÂ would roll the diceÂ that Dustin Vaughan makes it to the practice squad in order to solidifyÂ a run game that protects the struggling quarterback AND the injured defense.
Let me know what you think. Should the Cowboys bring up Williams and if so, who do they cut to do it?