The Dallas Cowboys running game came into the 2015 season as one of the biggest question marks in the NFL. Prior to the start of training camp, it was a foregone conclusion, the Cowboys were planning to attack defenses with a running back by committee approach. By using Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar as the third down back, the Cowboys seemed to have enough to replace last season’s NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray. So far, the Cowboys have done an adequate job, but they may have hit a bump in the road. Currently, the Cowboys are averaging roughly 105 rushing yards per game.
Although pro football is filled with injuries, no one expected the Cowboys to be without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. However, Bryant was injured in the first game, and Romo went down with a collarbone injury in Week 2. During the Cowboys Week 3 game against Atlanta, it was the perfect opportunity for Dallas to announce how strong their running game is. Instead of riding Randle and McFadden to victory, the Cowboys completely abandoned their rushing attack in the second half of a horrific performance. They scored four touchdowns in the first half.
With Brandon Weeden taking over as quarterback, the Cowboys would have been wise to continue with their game plan. Instead, the Cowboys rode his hot hand to a double digit loss. Weeden completed 22/26 passes for 232 yards, but he did have a fatal interception. It was a complete meltdown for the Cowboys, looking to go (3-0).
In the first half, the Cowboys scored four rushing touchdowns, and things seemed fairly easy. Overall, Randle had 14 of the 21 rushing attempts, and gained 87 yards. He also added three touchdown runs, helping Dallas to the early lead. McFadden, the clear backup at this point scored one touchdown on six carries. He averaged over five yards per carry against the Falcons, but wasn’t able to make an impact.
Combined, Randle and McFadden are more than capable of duplicating Murray’s numbers from last season. However, Dallas will not be patient enough to use their skills throughout the 16 game season. If it wasn’t for a Giants blunder, the Cowboys would have lost the season opener. Therefore, it was hard to notice the Cowboys’ lack of running game early. However, they can’t hide it while their big guns are injured.
In three games, the Cowboys have 105 pass attempts, and 77 rushing attempts. That’s a little over 25 rushing attempts per game. It’s not always as simple as looking at numbers, but the Cowboys can still help their defense by controlling the clock. Remember, the Cowboys are supposed to have the best offensive line in the NFL. To not use them is akin to sabotage.
Earlier, we stated the Cowboys have established Randle as the No.1 running back. So far, he’s carried the ball 48 times for 203 yards, and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, McFadden has gotten off to a slow start, averaging 3.7 yards per attempt on 22 carries. McFadden only has one touchdown so far.
Lance Dunbar might be the most impressive of all the running backs in a Cowboys uniform. He already has 21 receptions on the season, averaging 10 yards per catch. It doesn’t look like the Cowboys will use Dunbar in the running game, but he’s starting to become the most productive third down back in the league. Well, minus Darren Sproles.
The Cowboys are expected to have this lineup for quite awhile. They face the winless New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The Saints have given up 378 rushing yards in the first three games. Therefore, the Cowboys know exactly what to do to get back on the winning track.