Of the many anguished refrains sounded during the 2010 season, few had the sustained impact of the one wondering why Marion Barber kept getting chances ahead of Tashard Choice.
Now that Barber is gone, the expectation was that Choice would get more playing time and the offense would benefit from his more versatile skill set. If the 2010 season taught us anything, though, it is that expectations can fade quickly and painfully. Choice might be providing us with some reinforcement of that lesson.
Choice hasn't been on the field since straining his calf in the first practice of training camp, an injury that opened the door for Lonyae Miller to get more reps with the offense. Miller, who spent 2010 on the practice squad before getting a shot on the active roster in the last month of the season, has made the most of the opportunity.
He scored two touchdowns in Sunday's scrimmage and continued to flash a power/speed mix that makes him a versatile runner and receiver out of the backfield. Miller also learned some clear lessons about how to make a team last season because he has shown an affinity for pass blocking and special teams work, two things that tend to be overlooked by fans when they predict final rosters.
Every training camp sees a few unknowns rocket to notoriety before things normalize and the better-known players return to the top of the food chain. Miller could prove to be just such a player, but there are reasons to believe that he could wind up threatening and/or taking Choice's spot on the team.
Thanks to Jerry Jones, we're all quite aware that Choice doesn't do special teams and he's not a good pass blocker either. He's also smaller than Miller, something that is more of a factor in a Barber-less world due to the need for a contrast to Felix Jones, without having an appreciable edge in speed. With DeMarco Murray also in the fold, there doesn't seem to be a clear place for Choice in the backfield mix.
Murray is hurt as well, of course. If he doesn't make it back soon it would be tough to send Choice away for a late-round draft pick while feeling good about the state of the running backs. Thanks to Miller, that might be his only chance to remain a Cowboy.
If this all seems too quick for you, just remember the story of the patron saint of all unexpected lineup changes. He's Wally Pipp, a starting Yankees first baseman who sat out one day because he wasn't feeling his best. A young fella named Lou Gehrig took his spot and you've probably been living under a rock (or really hate baseball) if you don't know the rest of the story.
Miller probably isn't football's version of Gehrig, but he doesn't have to be to turn Choice into Pipp.
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