CANTON, OH - AUGUST 4: Running back Lance Dunbar #25 of the Dallas Cowboys beats a Miami Dolphins defender for a gain during the first quarter at Fawcett Stadium on August 4, 2013 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
The Cowboys’ offense had one goal and one goal only against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night: run the ball effectively. They accomplished that task, running well both inside and out with Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, and Joseph Randle. On Friday night, we’ll probably see more of the same from Dallas against the Raiders. Here are four offensive players to monitor.
Leary played 62 snaps against the Dolphins, so the coaches obviously want to see if he can handle playing inside. With the addition of veteran free agent guard Brandon Moore, it’s looking like Leary will play left guard. If he continues to generate a push like he did on Sunday night, he’s going to start over Nate Livings. Keep an eye on both Leary and center Travis Frederick early in the game.
The Cowboys leaned heavily on Dunbar on their first drive before pulling him in favor of Phillip Tanner. That’s probably a sign that the coaches are comfortable with Dunbar as DeMarco Murray’s primary backup, but Tanner really played well against Miami. Dunbar is the fastest of the primary trio playing behind Murray, and he’s my choice to win the job. Still, he needs to maintain a high level of play with Tanner right behind him.
The Cowboys are comfortable with what Escobar can do as a receiver, but they need him to improve as a blocker. If he can become even average at the point-of-attack, it will really give the offense more flexibility in their “12” personnel groupings. As it stands right now, Escobar is a bit of a liability when Dallas wants to run the ball. There’s no better way that he can improve his ability to make plays via the passing game than by becoming a better blocker; if he can force defense into heavier personnel, it will allow him to take advantage of mismatches on linebackers when he’s a receiver.
I don’t think Beasley should make the 53-man roster. He’s 5-8, 180 pounds and basically useless in the red zone. He theoretically could help Dallas move the ball up the field, but they don’t really need that. They’re just fine between the 20s—it’s near the goal line where they need help—and Beasley isn’t going to do anything there. In my opinion, Eric Rogers should be the Cowboys’ No. 5 receiver, and keeping him will be a whole lot easier if we don’t see improvement from Beasley.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.