Cowboys: Replacing Lance Dunbar


The Cowboys sustained yet another critical blow to the offense when it lost RB Lance Dunbar for the season. How can the Cowboys replace Lance Dunbar?

Who woulda thought it — leading the Cowboys offense the first quarter of the 2014 season would be a tiny running back out of North Texas named Lance Dunbar?

Dunbar, 5’8” 190 lbs (soaking wet and standing on a phonebook) has been the lone bright spot of the Cowboys’ offense this season. Leading the team in receptions and receiving yards, Dunbar has been a critical piece to this struggling offense. Sadly, Dunbar is now out for the season and the Cowboys are left scrambling to replace one of their most important (and most unique) players.

"“Lance (Dunbar) was a weapon for us and we tried to use him as a weapon a lot of different ways to impact our offense and impact the game,” Jason Garrett said. “To say that we have someone in-house who’s going to do those same kinds of things, I don’t know that we have somebody like that. But we have guys in-house who can do different things and hopefully we’ll play to their strengths.”"

Dunbar, a Darren Sproles-ish change of pace back, was getting the job done from all over the field. He lined up behind the line as a RB, he lined up spread out like a WR, and he went in motion to expose defenses and exploit mismatches. Dunbar could just do it all.

Primarily a check-down option, Dunbar racked up most of his receptions and YAC (yards after the catch) at the most crucial points in games. Replacing him will be nearly impossible for the Cowboys offense, but the Cowboys are convinced a solution can be found.

"“Our offense can do a lot of different things and do those things a lot of different ways,” Jason Garrett said. “One of the things that we really pride ourselves on as coaches, and I think what Scott Linehan does such a good job of, is using the personnel that we have.”"

Much of Dunbar’s duties will have to be split between RBs, TEs, and WRs. Cole Beasley has yet to carve out a sizable role in this 2015 offense and the Cowboys are sure to find a way to get their slot receiver more opportunities to make plays.

TE Gavin Escobar (stop me if you heard this one) stands to gain more opportunities as a pass-catcher without Dunbar. With his big frame and soft hands, Escobar is an excellent candidate to be the Cowboys #2 possession receiver (behind Witten, of course).

Even the current stable of running backs could use the added snaps to develop a rhythm in the Cowboys’ offense. Both Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden have good hands and high YAC potential. They will need to pick up the slack as well.

However this gets divided, it doesn’t appear reinforcements are on the way…

"“We’re always looking, Garrett said. “We’re always looking for players at every position on our team. We feel good about the three running backs we have. We don’t need another one. It was almost a reach last week to put a fourth running back up, so we feel good about the guys we have and they’ll practice this week.”"

Replacing Dunbar with one player will be impossible but the Cowboys pride themselves on their ability to adjust. Either the Cowboys will take a committee approach to do everything Dunbar did, or they will have to fundamentally change their attack.

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As discussed yesterday, changing the way the offense works is probably the only way to salvage this disastrous season. Darren McFadden can be the check-down option that Dunbar executed so brilliantly but it’s clear the Cowboys need to focus on getting the ball downfield and on the outside more often.

Next: Is the Cowboys offense bad?

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