2013 Dallas Cowboys Position Reviews: Running Backs
By Matthew Postins
Running backs: DeMarco Murray (starter), Lance Dunbar (backup), Phillip Tanner (backup), Joseph Randle (backup).
Other notable players: Fullback Tyler Clutts (signed late in season)
In 2013: Murray had his best season as a pro, becoming the first Cowboys back since 2006 (Julius Jones) to rush for at least 1,000 yards. Murray gained 1,174 yards for the season and he really came on in the season’s final six games, as the Cowboys finally started to use the run more. Murray gained nearly 100 yards per game in his final six games. There were times, though, when it seemed the Cowboys could have used Murray more to either milk clock or manage the game more wisely. Murray did miss two games with an injury, so perhaps there are still concerns about his durability. But Murray showed he’s a dual threat back, catching 53 passes. He also benefited from improvement on the offensive line. Dunbar fought injuries all year and had one great quarter against Oakland in which he rushed for nearly all of his 82 yards in that game. But an ankle injury ended his season. When Murray went down the Cowboys turned to Randle, their fifth-round pick, who gained 65 yards against Philadelphia and 26 yards against Detroit. He also gained 53 yards and scored a touchdown against Chicago, but that was in garbage time. Otherwise, he had a forgettable rookie season. Phillip Tanner was largely a special-teams contributor and rushed for just 33 yards on 3 carries. Clutts was a fullback signed late in the year to lead-block and is probably most remembered for his fumble against Washington, which was his first catch as a Cowboy.
Looking ahead: Murray is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and his performance in 2013 puts him in an enviable position, should he want to pursue a contract extension. His talent is intriguing and he might be worth the money. The question is whether the Cowboys have the money, as they have other players that are nearing extension time, including wide receiver Dez Bryant and left tackle Tyron Smith. Dunbar should be back as well and his pure speed makes him a great, low-cost change of pace back. But he has to get healthy. Randle’s role is unclear and may be unclear until the Cowboys determine if Murray is their long-
term answer at running back. Tanner is a restricted free agent who could probably be retained without an offer.