Name me a team with three running backs better than the Dallas Cowboys. I certainly can’t think of one. Even if you can name a team I would be willing to bet it is debatable. My point is there is no reason that the Dallas Cowboys should not be a dominant, run-oriented team in 2009. Let’s take a look at all of the parts of the Dallas Cowboys running game.
Marion Barber is an absolute beast with the ball in his hands. I would hate to be the defender who ends up one on one with Barber in the open field. You would just know that you were in for punishment if you were given the task of tackling Marion Barber. He is an ideal short yardage back and clock killing machine in the 4th quarter. His effectiveness was severely limited near the end of the season in 2008 due to a toe injury but he should return in full force in 2009.
Felix Jones has game changing speed that cannot be taught. By the time Jason Garrett started to figure out how best to utilize the skills of Felix Jones he was lost for the season with a hamstring strain followed by a toe injury during rehab. With a full offseason of work in the offense and the trust of his offensive coordinator, 2009 should be a breakout season for Felix Jones. I would expect to see him get a much heavier percentage of the workload next season so that both he and Marion Barber can remain fresh throughout each and game and the entire season.
Tashard Choice was the surprise discovery of the 2008 season. If it weren’t for the injuries to Barber and Felix Jones then Choice probably would have never had a chance to show what he can do at the NFL level. He doesn’t possess great size, speed, or quickness but he seems to find a hole or crease every time he touches the ball. He is one of those players with great football instincts. Jason Garrett can use Tashard Choice in any situation because he has shown the ability to not only run with the ball, but catch catch passes out of the backfield and pass block as well.
The offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys is built to dominate the defensive line. It is much easier for them to block while moving forward while run blocking than while trying to protect the quarterback while pass blocking. Jason Garrett will have to utilize the size and strength of the offensive line more now that the passing game is going to be less explosive. Offensive lineman love to overpower the defense by running the ball, so they should be a happy bunch in 2009. I expect to see Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, Flozell Adams, and Kyle Kosier grinding the running yards out regularly next season.
The key to all of this is the coaching staff. There has to be a commitment to the run and a rotation designed to utilize all of the talent at the running back position. I hope to see Marion Barber and Felix Jones spitting time with Tashard Choice given a series or two per game to give the other two some rest. Last year Jason Garrett seemed to struggle with getting just two backs on the field, so he is going to have to figure out a rotation and commit to it during the entire season for all three running backs. A run-first scheme would allow more consistency to develop in the offense and open up more plays in the passing game. And a rotation of the backs would allow Marion Barber to grind out the clock in the 4th quarter of games because he will be fresh when the defense is tired.