Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Depth - Running Backs

The Cowboys seemed to be on the verge of releasing Marion Barber just a few days ago but now it appears they will be keeping him around. With that move the Cowboys have made a big statement about where they plan to go with the running back situation this offseason. It appears they will try to keep all three guys around or maybe shop Tashard Choice during the draft and pick up a new back. I'm torn on what the Cowboys should do at this point but, if any of the three were to go, I was hoping it would be Marion Barber based on his age, injuries and declining level of play.

Felix Jones - Felix finally got a chance to start this year and proved that he isn't a complete running back. Sure, he has speed to burn and can break off the big run, but he isn't the best inside runner so it makes it difficult to put the bulk of the running game on Felix's back. Heading into last season Felix put on some extra muscle weight to try to prepare for the increased work load and punishment he would take during the season. Unfortunately the extra weight may have contributed to his lack of explosive plays in 2010. Now he is planning to get back to his original playing weight from his first two seasons so hopefully the big play will become his game again. I love Felix as a complementary back, but it is hard to imagine the Cowboys relying too much on him in the running game throughout the course of next season.

Marion Barber - I have soured on Barber over the last two seasons due to his injuries and his attitude. I love his passion on the field, but I don't like his immature attitude with the media and the off field garbage he was involved in at the NBA All Star game. But just when you want to call him a bad guy he goes and donates $500,000 worth of computers to the Dallas school district. I don't know if anyone will ever understand Marion Barber. If Barber can regain his health and get back his explosiveness he is the perfect part of a 1-2 punch with Felix Jones. But the odds that Barber will regain his form of 2-3 years ago are very long. If nothing else Barber does provide a great short yardage option and third down back thanks to his excellent blitz pick up ability.

Tashard Choice - Choice is another guy I really have mixed emotions about. Sure, he is probably the most complete back of the three on the roster. He is good at everything but great at nothing. And that is the thing that keeps him off the field. Felix Jones has explosive speed. Marion Barber is great in short yardage and as a pass blocker. Choice seems to believe that he should get a shot at being the starter. And maybe he is right. But last season he didn't show anything that would make you believe he should be anything but the #3 back on the roster. That is why I am hoping the Cowboys are shopping him in for a trade. Choice has tried to remain positive but you can sense that his frustrations with his playing time are ready to boil over. You can't blame him for wanting to play but the guys ahead of him will continue to make his playing time scarce if they are healthy. I would love to keep Choice as the #3 guy but only if he can accept whatever role the coaches choose for him.

Running back for the Cowboys is a tough position to evaluate. They seem to need some help but you have to wonder how much of the struggles in the running game are actually the fault of the running backs since the offensive line was so bad in 2010. With all of the glaring needs on the roster I have to believe that running back is one of the positions that the Cowboys feel they don't necessarily have to address this offseason. I expect the Cowboys to keep the same trio of backs heading into next season.

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