Mini-camp Preview: RBs

The Dallas Cowboys threw a new name into the mix at running back just a few weeks ago when the organization decided to sign veteran free agent Anthony Thomas.

34 Erik Bickerstaff - Bickerstaff ruptured his left Achilles tendon in a mini-camp practice last year, underwent surgery to repair the injury and ended up missing the entire season. With the recent signing of Anthony Thomas, not to mention the drafting of Marion Barber III, Bickerstaff finds himself in a position where he must grab the attention of Bill Parcells. His first opportunity, in about a year, to do just that will be during next weekend's mini-camp.

21 Julius Jones - After rushing for over 800 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games as a rookie, the former Notre Dame star is expected to carry the load this season for the Cowboys. As the clear-cut starter, Jones will also have the benefit of an experienced back behind him in Anthony Thomas. Between the two, the Cowboys should have an effective one-two punch in the backfield. For next weekend's mini-camp, Jones is healthy and is in good shape after participating the Cowboys' offseason workouts.

24 Marion Barber III - Barber impressed during the Cowboys' rookie mini-camp two weeks ago in more ways than one. Barber ran almost to the end zone nearly every time he carried the ball, even when he had no defenders within 30 yards of him. Head coach Bill Parcells also emphasized the importance of drafting Barber during the three-day session. "Getting Marion Barber was a very important pick," Parcells said.

28 Tyson Thompson - Thompson has more pure speed than any running back currently on the team, and that alone will give him the opportunity to make the 53-man roster. Parcells acknowledged him as the fastest rookie at the Cowboys rookie mini-camp two weeks ago, and he also demonstrated excellent hands and a good work ethic. Next weekend's mini-camp will be a big first step in determining whether or not he 1) Can be more than a kick return specialist, 2) Can take a pounding even while running "high," and 3) Make the regular season roster. Insiders suggest he's well on his way.

00 Anthony Thomas - It was one of the more surprising moves of the offseason when the Cowboys signed veteran free agent Anthony Thomas just days after the 2005 NFL Draft. Nevertheless, the move gives the Cowboys insurance at a position where its badly needed. Thomas doesn't possess true breakaway speed, but his two years of over 1,000 yards with the Chicago Bears proves he has the talent to get the job done. As the back up to Julius Jones, Thomas' leadership and experience will become valuable to Marion Barber III, while his inside the tackle running ability should help the Cowboys in short yardage and goal line situations this year.

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