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!