Cowboys: Running Backs Bigger And Better?


The Dallas Cowboys entered 2015 with a planned running back by committee approach, but the members appear to be changing while also getting bigger.

The Dallas Cowboys may not play a football game this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not significant changes happening.

New starting quarterback Matt Cassel has certainly been a big story this week following the ‘last hurrah’ for former starter Brandon Weeden against the New England Patriots last Sunday.

But there’s another position that’s quietly being retooled during this season of complete unpredictability that should definitely play a larger role once the season resumes.

Former Seattle running back Christine Micheal was brought in via trade with the Seattle Seahawks in early September, and a good thing given the later season-ending injury to speedster Lance Dunbar.

That Dunbar was no longer available this season following his torn ACL and MCL suffered during the Week 4 game against the New Orleans Saints led the Cowboys to go right back to Seattle for more help at running back. On Wednesday, undrafted rookie running back Rod Smith was claimed off waivers to bring the Dallas roster back up to 53.

These moves are beginning to look like they have actual meaning, as opposed to simply bringing in bodies for the scout team.

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To start with, no Cowboys running back has crossed the 100-yard mark in ’15, a mark routinely crossed last year by lead rusher DeMarco Murray.

Further, anointed starting running back Joseph Randle continues to see his stock drop off as the primary back in the Dallas offense – remember that fumble-turned touchdown against the Saints? That, along with his additional limitations in pass-blocking have really left the Cowboys without a true lead running back.

How do Michael and Smith factor in?

This remains to be seen, but according to David Helman of, things seem to be changing where the running back depth chart is concerned. He quotes Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown with the following regarding Michael and his immediate future on Thursday:

"I think we’re going to give him an opportunity to go out and do some more snaps. I think he’s earned it. He’s worked hard, he’s been everything we’ve expected off the field, and he’s a student of the game. We’re looking forward to seeing him play."

One particular dynamic that’s hard to overlook is the physique brought forth by both of these new runners from the Pacific Northwest.

Michael was instantly the biggest running back on the roster once he arrived at 5’10” and weighing in at just over 220 pounds. The former Texas A&M runner got his first carry with the Cowboys on Week 4 against the Saints in gaining minus-one yard. His second carry came against the Patriots as he gained six yards and a first down on Dallas’ final field goal drive in the third quarter.

The question is whether or not just a couple of carries for exactly five yards grants starter-caliber snaps.

In the current situation, I say absolutely.

Micheal’s physique alone is a badly needed element in the Dallas backfield. If you’re an opposing linebacker who’s called on to blitz, would you rather run into 210-pound Randle or McFadden, or 220-pund Michael?

Fun fact: Murray weighed around 220 pounds last season while leading the league in rushing.

See a trend here?

Perhaps most intriguing looking ahead is the stature of Smith, a giant by running back standards at 6’3” and weighing over 230 pounds.

Yes, the Cowboys are looking to become more physical as the team tries to get healthy for a playoff push down the stretch this season.

One way to help that cause, in addition to a defense that’s a few steps ahead in getting its own health in order, is to aid Cassel with a power running game. This will only help his adaptation to the Cowboys offensive structure and likely open those passing lanes that Weeden never really got during his brief run as starting quarterback.

Next: Stars: Mattias Janmark Making Early Impact

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