Cowboys Practice Report: Randle Returns
The Dallas Cowboys are sincere in their belief that they three running backs atop their depth chart can be their three running backs for the 2015 season. So why do media questions insist it be otherwise?
Joseph Randle's oblique strain is the latest fuel for another round of the same questions. Likely starter Joe Randle watched the Monday workout without full knowledge of what was ailing him, telling me after the workout, "That's why we're going to go in here (to the trainers room) and figure out what we've got to do to get it back right.''
Randle, it was later determined by diagnosis, likely has a slight oblique strain. That can be a four-week injury for a non-football player; it's unlikely that fits Randle's personal schedule to return ... and indeed, as I watched practice on Tuesday morning, he was indeed a participant. (There goes the "four-weeks'' thing). But maybe he won't play in Thursday's preseason opener at San Diego, a status he shares with fellow starters Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, who also did not practice Monday. (Romo was back Tuesday after his rest day.)
Dallas has a host of other injury issues as well at the moment. Defensive lineman Chris Whaley has a serious injury issue, I reported on Monday night, and now we know it's a season-ending Achilles. Tank Lawrence's sore back is not expected to be serious, and indeed, he was back at practice on Tuesday. Orlando Scandrick and Tyler Patmon are working through minor issues in the secondary, and Brandon Carr is back in town after surgery on his broken hand but not yet practicing. Doug Free fighting back on his rehabbing foot. Devin Street is trying to play on a sore ankle. Nick Hayden and Terrell McClain did resistance training on Tuesday, as Rolando McClain and McFadden did on Monday.
Oh, and the the tight ends wore Mike Pope bags on their heads ...
But there was an entire group sidelined at one position, at least for a day there. Which makes it a stand-alone story ...
So Dallas is thin at running back, with Lance Dunbar (ankle) and Darren McFadden (hamstring) also temporarily unavailable. McFadden wanted to come off PUP last Saturday but COO Stephen Jones told me that was unnecessary and indeed, McFadden is now working toward a debut this weekend -- and working well, as you can see below. (It's possible Randle, McFadden and Dunbar are all on the field by Saturday.)
Likely to carry the load on Thursday: Street free-agent running backs Gus Johnson of Stephen F. Austin and Lache Seastrunk of Baylor. Johnson is earning real praise here so far (see KD Drummond's analysis here) and is bidding for a possible practice-squad future. Friend-of-Denzel Tyler Clutts is a fullback who might get some carries, too.
All of this is normal enough; first-preseason-game from front-line standouts is now how Garrett runs this thing ...
And if and when Dallas needs another body (Ben Tate? Shonn Greene?) it will sign one. And if and when Randle proves unreliable (something that hasn't happened yet, Dallas can explore a trade for an established, young, affordable back (Knile Davis? Lamar Miller?) But there is no sense in signing running backs "in case you need more of 'em'; you'll sign a running back WHEN you need to.
So that question needs to go away, along with the Chris-Johnson-to-Dallas myth, about to die with Arizona's vets-minimum offer to him. And the answers in Dallas, for now, need to come from within.