Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar should play a big role in the future following a season-ending injury against the New Orleans Saints.
Much was made of injuries to starting quarterback Tony Romo and primary wide receiver Dez Bryant during the 2015 regular season. While these setbacks certainly had a lousy effect on any Super Bowl ambitions for the Cowboys, a humorous idea when you think back just a few months, there was actually another injury that might have been just as lethal.
No, not the training camp-ending loss of cornerback Orlando Scandrick, although that loss was pretty afwul given what transpired thereafter.
Even if it wasn’t the biggest injury in terms of a key player, the season-ending injury to third-down running back Lance Dunbar was simply devastating. The smallish, lightning-quick runner was the remaining big-play threat for a Cowboys offense that dropped off a cliff once Romo left the field.
It’s hard to justify re-signing an unrestricted free agent, like Dunbar, who has never rushed for 100 yards in a game, caught 1,000 yards in a season – or even scored an NFL touchdown, for that matter.
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The lack of statistics for this former University of North Texas star aren’t the point.
The impact that Dunbar can make in a football game certainly is the point, and it’s not like he’s never turned in a big play.
Standing 5’9” and weighing in at well under 200 pounds, Dunbar is somewhat of an injury liability. He’s been active in all 16 games just once in his four-year career and will never be the kind of running back that carries the ball 20-plus times per game. He’s not going to catch 10-12 passes out of the backfield, although he might have come pretty close in 2015 had he not fallen on Week 4.
Dunbar can, however, explode for 100-plus yards on just a couple of touches, be it via hand-off or reception. Dunbar can run back kickoffs and should probably get a longer look returning punts as well.
All in all, Dunbar is instant offense that’s easy to get involved in the game.
Dunbar is clearly a niche-player that’s hard to game plan for. Historically speaking, Dunbar just doesn’t touch the ball often enough for opposing defensive coordinators to spend the bulk of their week trying to find ways of stopping him.
Dunbar is among the shiftiest and quickest players in the NFL. He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t possess the kind of top-flight speed that former Cowboys such as Deion Sanders or Raghib Ismail used to have, but his combination of small size and quickness are a rare commodity in football.
Given his recent injury and relatively low stat figures, it wouldn’t seem as though Dunbar will be fielding big offers from around the league. This could make Dunbar quite affordable for the Cowboys on a short-term deal of three or four – obviously the Cowboys would also have some nice depth in a pinch.
Last season was potentially a breakout year for Dunbar as his opportunities would have definitely increased given the key injuries that the Cowboys suffered. If the price is right, Dunbar could more than help an offense with plenty of playmakers to reestablish itself in 2016 and beyond.