© Eric Hartline | 2015 Sep 20 | USA Today

Dallas Cowboys Nuclear Fallout Assessment 3 of 4: Running Back Committees Look Like This

In this four-part series, we examine the fallout of Tony Romo's broken clavicle. From how it happened to how the team will look to survive and thrive without him.

When a nuclear blast occurs, the explosion and shock wave cause a tremendous amount of damage within the blast radius. There are immediate and catastrophic results here. However just as dangerous and sometimes moreso, is the nuclear fallout; the radioactive dust that enters the atmosphere and then falls back down to earth. Sometimes, due to atmospheric changes, the fallout can cover an immense landscape, far beyond the reaches of the blast itself. This might just be a fitting description of the landscape around the Dallas Cowboys fanbase, following the broken left clavicle of star quarterback Tony Romo in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Romo is expected to be sidelined 8-10 weeks with the injury, which means Dallas will have to survive the fallout for 7-9 games and hope when they emerge from their shelter to have enough of a season left to make a run to the playoffs.

The game instelf wasn’t pretty, as Dallas was already short 6 of their 22 starters on the day. WR Dez Bryant was lost to a broken foot in Week One and is out anywhere from 5-11 additional weeks. Star rookie pass rusher Randy Gregory was lost for a month in the same game due to a high ankle sprain. Ron Leary hurt his groin and was missing at least this start. Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain were just entering Game Two of identical four-game suspensions and star corner Orlando Scandrick is out for the season with a torn ACL.

In this series, we’ll examine what the Cowboys will be working with to survive their version of nuclear winter.


From as early as January, this space has been used to pine for a running back by committee approach to replacing Demarco Murray in the Cowboys backfield. There are now two weeks in the books, and although the running aspect of the committee hasn’t come close to filling Murray’s shoes, things are still going swimmingly.

How could that be said when the two lead backs averaged just 2.8 and 3.1 yards per carry respectively? Because hitting backs out the backfield has become a way of life for the Cowboys offense. In the first two games last year, Murray ran for a combined 285 yards as he started his journey of eight straight games with at least 100 yards rushing.

No Cowboys back has come close to rushing for 100 yards this year. So again, how is this comparable? Total yardage. Through two games last season, Dallas’ running backs accounted for 390 total yards from scrimmage. This year? They are only eight yards off that pace, checking in with 382 yards combined, running and receiving.

Secondly, Dallas hasn’t had any trouble owning the time of possession against their first two opponents. Against New York, the advantage was 37:10 to 22:50 and it could be reasonably assumed that it was very influential in Dallas being able to march down the field with ease to win the ballgame with one minute and no timeouts remaining. Against the Eagles, combined with their escalated offensive pace, the TOP dominance was outstanding; Philadelphia had possession for less than 20 minutes for the entire game.

Fans could see the Eagles defensive lineman gasping for air as Darren McFadden finally started getting some positive yardage on his fourth quarter drive.

Joseph Randle is clearly the main back and Lance Dunbar is firmly entrenched as the change-of-pace back that is used in multiple passing situations and might get a carry or two. McFadden, who’s lack of lateral agility seems better suited for the times Dallas eschews zone-blocking principles for power ones, appears to be relegated to “give Randle a breather for a series” duties. The one back that is missing is the power back. Christine Michael has been impressive in practice squad duty. There could be a movement soon to have him take over McFadden’s snaps to see what he can do with them.

None of this is to say that Dallas actual rushing attack is where it needs to be; it most certainly isn’t. They are averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and it’s in a large part to the ineffectiveness of the offensive line in creating holes like they did last year. Granted, this team has a serious problem creating creases against the Eagles defense. Murray only averaged 3 yards-per-carry against them last year. However, the running back by committee approach is built to maximize every asset and aspect. The interesting race will be if they can get the run portion straightened out with defenses no longer having to keep a safety over the top on Dez Bryant, and fearing Brandon Weeden a lot less than they feared Tony Romo.





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