Cowboys Camp Preview: Running Backs

This time last year, Jason Garrett and co. had just one proven running back at their disposal. Granted, this one running back was the superbeast known as Marion Barber, fresh off a breakout year and a Pro Bowl nod, but one running back none the less.
Some wondered, albeit passively in most cases, how Barber would handle the starting role, with Julius Jones Seattle-bound; he handled the increased load well, averaging 4.53 yards per carry through the first three games of the season. A series of injuries plagued his second half, however, and he finished with a vaguely (relatively) disappointing 885 yards and seven touchdowns.
There’s no reason to think that, if healthy, Barber won’t be his old, end zone-happy self, if not the juggernaut we saw in 2007.
Helping his case, of course, will be the breakout runners of 2008, rookies Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, which may allow Dallas to cater to Barber’s (considerable) strengths.
Jones, for his part, looked like a rookie of the year candidate through the first six weeks of the season, averaging 8.9 yards a carry and hitting pay dirt thrice in limited duty. However, he pulled a hamstring in the October OT loss to Arizona, a game that would prove to be the last of his season as, while rehabbing the hammy, he tore a ligament in his big toe.
Tashard Choice was the great revelation of Dallas’ 2008 season. In (very) limited action early, the Georgia Tech-product showed flashes of brilliance, including an 11 carry, 57 yard performance against Seattle. With both Barber and Jones sidelined in week 14, Choice broke out, going for 88 yards rushing (78 receiving) against the Steelers’ number one ranked defense.
The three, obviously, figure to get the lion’s share of carries for Dallas and, make no mistake, it will be a lion’s share. Coaches have asserted repeatedly that they will rely more heavily on the run in 2009, precipitating a shift in offensive mindset from the greatest-show-on-turf approach of the past few years, which produced plenty of highlights and no playoff wins.
With a three-headed running attack like that at Dallas’ disposal, this seems like an obvious development, and it may just lead to the team running more than they pass for the first time since 2005. Training camp should prove a testing ground for the team, as they figure how best to use these weapons.
Deon Anderson figures to be back, leading the way for this Ghidorah of the NFL, though Oklahoma State’s Julius Crosslin may give him a run for his money in camp.
For all the hoopla surrounding Roy Williams, Tony Romo and, for some reason, Terrell Owens, this running attack will most likely have the greatest hand in the fate of Dallas in 2009, at least as far as the offense is concerned.
This is a palpable shift for a team that often abandoned the run, to their detriment, in 2008. One such instance occurred in September of that year, as Dallas lost to Washington at home, running the ball only 11 times. Eleven times.
What’s worse is that only eight of these carries went to a running back (Eight for Barber, two for Owens and one for Romo).
Considering, it’s a wonder we only lost that game by two.
Jason Garrett, who was verbally skewered (justifiably so) after the loss, seems resigned to never make that mistake again.
We should hope so.
Training camp begins Tuesday, July, 28 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Contact Us