So much has been written about the Dallas Cowboys running game. To some the running back corps is fine, considering the offensive line that the Cowboys have. To others, the corps isn’t very good and they need to add someone. To others they feel that it is just a matter of time before the Cowboys acquire Adrian Peterson. There are still some who think that the Cowboys are doomed no matter what without DeMarco Murray. So what exactly is up with the Dallas Cowboys’ running game? The answer right now is no one knows, but we can guess, assume, and speculate.
First let’s talk about the least likely scenario. Many fans think the Cowboys are going to find a way to get Adrian Peterson, even if he decides to retire. There are quite a few issues that arise here. First, the Vikings have hold all of the cards when it comes to AP. If he decides to retire then there are some things in place that allow the Vikings to continue to hold the cards. According to the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement:
"16. EXTENSION. Unless this contract specifically provides otherwise, if Player becomes a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or any other country, or retires from professional football as an active player, or otherwise fails or refuses to perform his services under this contract, then this contract will be tolled between the date of Player’s induction into the Armed Forces, or his retirement, or his failure or refusal to perform, and the later date of his return to professional football. During the period this contract is tolled, Player will not be entitled to any compensation or benefits. On Player’s return to professional football, the term of this contract will be extended for a period of time equal to the number of seasons (to the nearest multiple of one) remaining at the time the contract was tolled. The right of renewal, if any, contained in this contract will remain in effect until the end of any such extended term."
This would mean that if Adrian retires and decides to return to football, he still has three years left on his VIKINGS contract. And the way the Vikings are structured they are fine financially for a few years if they want to ensure Peterson doesn’t play for anyone else. This of course brings the idea of a trade, however, the Vikings have already said that the Dallas Cowboys are the last team they are willing to trade for. So pump the brakes on Peterson, unless the Vikings change their minds all of a sudden Peterson will be either a Viking, retired, or on any other team.
So what about adding someone else? Well, we all know the Dallas Cowboys have kicked the tires on Ben Tate and Felix Jones, there were a splattering of rumors of Matt Forte trades, and even a few people have thrown out Ray Rice‘s name. First, they were not impressed with any of the running backs they brought in. To be honest Tate and Jones are not exactly an upgrade to anyone the Cowboys currently have on their roster. The idea of Matt Forte is interesting, however, it seems most of the rumors were just that, and Forte is pushing 30 and the rumors have been more than denied. Which brings us to Ray Rice. Many think that Rice has been blackballed from the NFL, and while this could be true, the last time Rice was on the field his performance was less than good. Again, nothing here to see folks, move along.
So here we are looking at the Dallas Cowboys’ current roster of RBs. First we look at the top of the corps. Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle are believed to be the two RBs battling for the number one spot. When Randle was on the field he actually ran really well. He has good vision and can break a run at any time. Darren McFadden ran behind what could be one of the worst offensive lines in football, so bad in fact it is offensive (sorry I couldn’t resist the pun). With the Dallas Cowboys’ line both of these RBs should have the ability to find holes and chew up yards. Both have vision and can get up-field in a hurry. The next spot in the corps is pretty much locked into Lance Dunbar. While he isn’t the best blocker, Dunbar is a weapon that the Cowboys do not want to let go. Dunbar has really good speed and is quite an above average receiver. He needs to get into space to make a play, but when he does, it can be special. He also has the ability to return kicks, which makes his value even higher. The last spot could come down to Ryan Williams and Synjyn Days. Williams has a good burst and decent vision, he is not a complete running back, but could be better this season after spending last season on the practice squad. Synjyn Days is the least known commodity in the corps. He has some raw tools that could be built upon, but the question will be is he better than any of the four guys above him. Ryan Ratty has a great article about him here.
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With OTAs over the next few months and training camp finally quickly approaching it will be interesting to watch how these RBs fair. I would think Dunbar is safe as long as he can return kicks well. That leaves Randle, McFadden, Williams, and Days to fight it out for the other few spots. There is always the ability to keep Williams and Days on the practice squad as both are eligible. Watch for whichever RB can pick up blitzes, is a one cut runner, tries to get extra yards instead of going down on the first hit, and doesn’t have a fumbling problem. This is of course assuming they all stay healthy. So what is up with the mysterious Dallas Cowboys running game? We don’t know, but soon enough we will find out.