Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running backs Lance Dunbar (25) and Phillip Tanner talk before the game against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. The Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Variety Would Mean Volumes for the Cowboys Offense

October 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (59) tackles Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) during first quarter action at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone saw Phillip Tanner pound in the Cowboys’ first touchdown on Sunday.  They also noticed him run the wrong route which led to Tony Romo’s second interception.  Despite his mistake, the Cowboys need to trust Tanner more in order to improve the run game.

A 2011 undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State, Phillip Tanner earned a cult following during a highly-memorable play against the Chargers in his first pre-season.  After spending that regular season on the injured reserve, however, Tanner just hasn’t been given the opportunity fans expected.

While the 25-year old is far from polished, Phillip Tanner adds a grit and toughness not matched by anyone else in the Cowboys backfield.  At 5’10 and 208 lbs, Tanner plays a lot bigger than his actual size.  Such was evident in the way he smashed through Eagles defenders for the score; compare that to Joseph Randle’s score in Week 6 and you’ll see a big difference.

Tanner’s smash and go style of running is a perfect fit for the Cowboys backfield.  Fellow UFA Lance Dunbar is an absolute burner, and the leader, DeMarco Murray, is a hybrid of the two backs.  Rookie Joseph Randle seems to mirror Murray in style, but he needs a lot more time to develop his abilities.

A healthy Cowboys backfield would mean a balanced attack – that is, if the Coaches were interested in balance.  While Jason Garrett promised a larger focus on the ground game, the Cowboys have actually run the ball fewer times over 7 games than in 2012 (148-170).  Plus, we can all attest that over the first six weeks, Murray seems to be the only back touching the ball.  Granted, he’s been doing a phenomenal job, and both Dunbar and Randle dealt with injuries.  That being said, the Coaches need to understand that variety on offense means confusion for the defense.

Our running backs (none of whom are bad blockers, either) should even be used more in the passing game.  Imagine a screen to Lance Dunbar every once in a while, or lining Murray up in the slot.  Moves like this can be called from the line, and they keep defenses guessing.

If the coaches play their cards right, the Cowboys can have a run-game likened to the 2011 New Orleans Saints.  Along with a crop of truly talented receivers, our personnel features an array of different strengths.  This year, more than ever, we have the chance to be a complete, potent offense.  But that will only happen if the Coaches are willing to use all that we’ve got.

How do YOU think the Cowboys could improve the rushing attack?  Let us know in the comments below!

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray Jason Garrett Joseph Randle Lance Dunbar Phillip Tanner

  • Big D Fan

    Doesn’t matter we could have AP in the backfield at this point and Dallas wouldn’t run the ball, the excuse used to be we are always playing from behind, but we led the last couple games all the way and they still wouldn’t run more.

    • SK_Jersey13

      I hate to say it but I agree. Though one possible explanation could be the recent lack of production from our back-ups and the desire to keep Murray healthy. You think that could be it?

      • Big D Fan

        They don’t give them a chance i watched Randle run a 12 yd first down, then run for 3 yards, then instead of riding the hot hand, Romo drops back to pass and takes a 13 yd sack. Made no sense whatsoever. Later in the 3rd quarter they were running no back sets with the lead and I watched Romo take another sack from the blind side.
        Mix in the run better. Even if your passing have a back behind you to at least keep the defense honest

        • SK_Jersey13

          That is pre-cise-ly the point! We have a good passing offense, but we’re becoming predictable. This also puts Romo at further risk, which we cannot afford to do

  • Jack Farguson

    They are mixing it up with the receivers. Maybe if the other backs stayed healthy they would start to incorporate that too. The Dallas players make up a better Passing team. If that is what is being given we should take it, or is it that we take it because we can?

    • SK_Jersey13

      That is very true. I’m happy to see Beasely involved more and even Escobar. Even if we are just a better passing team, though, using the backs more often and in different ways could actually contribute to that. Running more + in different ways would mean facing more man-coverages – and the use of RBs as pass-catchers would keep LBs closer to the line.

  • Jack Farguson

    Very true. What I don’t want to see is the offense suffering because they’re trying to make things happen. At least not until they have a solid lead.

  • Jack Farguson

    As many running backs that we have had that were or got unsuccessful, I think we need to start looking for other reasons. The line looks great this year, but could they take on the run in a different way. I like the Idea of the 12 personnel too but someone needs to open lanes for the running backs

    • SK_Jersey13

      I agree with that. Good offensive lineman don’t mean good run blockers. At the same time, guys like Smith and Frederick are both strong and fast enough to push blockers forward, and TEs Smith and Hanna could provide nice blocking for runs around the edge. I just think it’s silly to run Bryant and Harris on WR screens (though they’re good plays), but never call something intended to get Murray or Dunbar in open space.

  • Jack Farguson

    The Offense’s objective should always be to keep the defense off balance and guessing what is coming next. For this reason I don’t have a problem with WR screens if that is getting them off balance. Personally I would like to see Dallas come into every game with the mindset they came in with against Denver. Attack hard and heavy and don’t stop. Dallas is the most popular franchise and every team out there knows it and are gunning for them. Dallas needs to realize that and never take any team lightly. Unfortunately they don’t.

    • SK_Jersey13

      Yeah I agree with you there. We’ve eased up in too many games and when we’ve had the lead, we’ve let it diminish if not slip away completely. It’s important to stay aggressive. That being said, I think if we take time to develop the run game more – namely by using a variety of backs and play calling – we’ll be able to keep defenses guess and also hold leads much more securely

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