Somewhere, in a Universe far, far away, the Dallas Cowboys had a good running game. Unfortunately, we're stuck living on Earth and were forced to watch the 2012 Dallas Cowboys fail more than miserably trying to run the ball this past season. The 2012 'Boys managed a laughable 1265 yards on the ground in 16 games this past season (only the Arizona Cardinals were worse). For comparison, 6 players in the NFL (Stevan Ridley was two yards away from making it 7) had more than that by themselves (!!!). For the first time in team history, the pitiful rushing attack failed to average 80 yards a game! Amazingly, the Dallas Cowboys actually managed 102.4 yards per game when they played on the road. But the flip side to that of course is that they averaged a stunning 55.8 yards per game when playing at Cowboys Stadium. Holy $$%^&*!!!! That's awful. Let's take a look at the players relied upon by Dallas to achieve such amazing(ly bad) numbers.
First off let's chat about Phillip Tanner. Reports from training camp were that Tanner was running hard and might be relied upon to provide some more muscle for the Dallas backfield. Unfortunately, this scenario never panned out for Phillip. He only received 25 carries for the season, managing only 61 yards in his limited opportunities. After receiving 9 carries when Murray went down against Baltimore and 13 carries against Carolina the following week, the coaching staff shifted away from the bruiser. He received 2 carries in the second NYG game, 1 against Atlanta, and then zero for the rest of the season. It'll be a surprise to see Tanner back next year, as his lack of opportunity was proof from the coaching staff that he didn't quite fit with the program.
The other training camp RB that latched on was Lance Dunbar. He's a much smaller (5'8"), quicker RB that, similar to Tanner, just didn't work out. He received just 21 carries on the year, and turned them into 75 yards. The little spark plug just didn't show enough vision to consistently find success behind a rag-tag offensive line. Also similar to Tanner, Dunbar did not receive a carry after Thanksgiving. It will again be a surprise to see him back with this team come September. Didn't realize just how similar his and Tanner's seasons were until right now.
And now on to Felix Jones. At this point, there's not a whole lot to say. Poor Felix just couldn't stay healthy, and even when he did, he could not really produce. For the first time since 2009, Felix finished without a 100 yard game. By far his best performance came against Baltimore, when he racked up 92 yards on 18 carries in relief of the injured Demarco Murray (damn we ran the ball a lot that game. 227 yards rushing total. If we remove that game from the stats, Dallas finished with only 1038 yards in 15 games. Wow. 69 yards a game…). Anyways, Felix actually finished with 5 total TDs and a respectable 25 catches out of the backfield for 262 yards. But, the fact remains: Felix will be remembered as a 1st round bust. Some people think Felix may be back on a Kevin Ogletree-type 1 year contract, but we think it'd best for both parties to go there separate ways. Look for Dallas to actively be searching for a replacement on day 2 or 3 of the NFL Draft.
Finally, we've got Demarco Murray. He was a true X factor for this team in 2012…when we has on the field. There was a palpable difference between when Murray was present and when Murray was wearing street clothes. While he only had one 100 yard game (in the first game of the season), he made opposing defense at least respect the possibility of the run. The offense clicked much better with him on the field, especially after returning from the foot injury sustained against Baltimore. He averaged a decent 4.1 yards per carry, which only gets more impressive when you consider the embarrassing group he had blocking (and we use that term loosely) in front of him. The issue with Murray has always been health. If he can put together a full 16 game season, he should have no problem breaking the 1000 yard mark. That, of course, is no given. He's missed 9 games over his short two year career. Yet, with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of help from the big uglies, Murray has a chance to be a cornerstone running back for this team for years to come.
So, overall, a lot of poor results from this unit. Seemingly everyone under produced, and the unit put up historically bad numbers as we discussed previously. Going into 2013, we will hopefully see a revamped O-line along with some new faces in the backfield that can help turn this unit around. Another year like this is simply unacceptable.
Overall grade for the Running Backs: D
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