Run Game Showing Up in Early in Preseason for Cowboys

Lance Dunbar has 43 yards on 7 attempts (6.14 avg.) this preseason

Through the first 2 Cowboys preseason games, one thing that has jumped out at me is how much more effective the run game has been compared to last season.  This is an excellent sign for this Cowboys team, as the run game is going to be needed for this team to contend for the NFC East this season.

The fact is, last season the Dallas Cowboys rushing attack was the worst it has been in team history in terms of yards per game (about 79 yards per game).  As a team, Dallas rushed for just 1265 total yards, averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, and only scored 8 rushing touchdowns.  That might be solid if we were talking about one player, but as a team those number stink.  This ineffectiveness in the run game allowed teams to pin their ears back and rush Tony Romo and, with the injuries that wiped out our offensive line last year, they were getting to him quickly.  This pressure caused early passes, bad decisions, and many of Romo’s league leading 19 interceptions.

The numbers in the rushing game through 2 preseason games look much better than those from last season.  The Cowboys running backs so far have rushed for 235 yards (127.5 per game) and averaged 4.52 yards per carry and 3 touchdowns.  Most improved of the backs so far appears to be Phillip Tanner, who has rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries (4.94 avg.) and 1 TD, and Lance Dunbar, with 43 yards on 7 attempts (6.14 avg.).  Tanner has been solid between the tackles and Dunbar has provided some very explosive runs.  Then you have the rookie 5th round pick from Oklahoma State, Joseph Randle, who has 86 yards on 21 carries (4.1 avg.) and 1 TD.  All of these 3 have put themselves in contention for 2nd string running back this season.  From the looks of it, Dallas has a 4 very talented running back on their roster, and that is a great problem to have.

Another thing this improved effectiveness in the running game hints at is an improved offensive line.  Or healthy offensive line, both work here.  The line Dallas was forced to put on the field at times in 2012 put Tony Romo and Demarco Murray in what could be considered a “hazardous work environment”.  There is still a lot of work to be done with the line (like finding a guard), but I am seeing potential up front.  And I also want to mention here that I love rookie Travis Fredrick, this guy is going to be incredibly valuable to this organization going forward.

While I do understand this is a very small sample size, this newfound ability to run the ball consistently has gotten me excited.  In order to contend we are going to need a solid, consistent running game to take pressure off of Tony Romo and our receivers.  Continuing to running the ball effectively through the regular season is going to be crucial to the team’s success, and this will certainly be something to keep an eye on as the preseason advances.

Afternoon Reading – August 10: X-rays negative on Cole Beasley’s foot

Here are some links that should be able to get you through the afternoon:

Preseason Game 2 @ Oakland Raiders – What to Watch For

Tonight’s game will be our first look at Cowboys starters for 2013

The Dallas Cowboys take the field tonight for their 2nd preseason game of 2013, here are some of the story lines to keep an eye on as you watch tonight.

Our first look at the starters.

Most Cowboys starters stayed on the sideline last Sunday vs. Miami, with only 3 projected starters seeing any snaps at all.  Tonight will be our first real look at how the team will look this season.  Will the incredible finish to last season carry over for Dez Bryant?  What will play calling look like from Bill Callahan with Tony Romo in the game?  How well is the offensive line coming together? How does the defense look?  How will Demarcus Ware play as a down defensive lineman?  These will be some of the big questions we will begin to have answered tonight.  It is possible that we won’t see the starters in the game for long tonight, but we can get some kind of idea where the team stands from tonights performance.

Can we run the ball as well as we did against Miami?

The rushing attack was great last game.  And that was with primarily 2nd and 3rd string lineman leading the way.  Tonight will the line be able to create those holes and will the backs be as effective as they were?  If the team can keep up any level of consistency in the run game this season, we should have a shot at winning the division.  Stringing together consecutive solid performances in the run game would go a long way towards easing my anxiety heading into the season.

Another strong defensive performance?

Yardage wise, last weeks game left a lot to be desired for the defense.  But we forced 2 turnovers, scored a defensive TD, and showed a true bend-but-don’t-break philosophy on that side of the ball.  We also got after the quarterback regularly, something I expect to get even better with Demarcus Ware back on the field.   The transition to the 4-3 isn’t expected to be seamless, so there should be some bumps in the road, but another strong performance tonight should improve the players confidence even more.

Stay tuned here and to our twitter @DCconversation tonight for live updates and reaction to the game, starting at 9 pm CT on NFL Network.

Reaction to Hall of Fame Game

Davonte Holloman took this INT back 75 yards for a TD vs. Miami

The Dallas Cowboys opened the preseason this past weekend with a 24-20 win against the Miami Dolphins in Canton, OH.  Even though most expected starters sat out this game, there was still a lot to learn from this game, and there were several things that hit me during the game.

1. The new defense is already looking solid.

The switch to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense is what everyone is paying attention to this offseason, and the defense was solid in the team’s first outing.  They did allow 421 total yards, but this was without any of the normal starters ever touching the field and the defense displayed a true bend but don’t break philosophy.  Everything seemed to tighten up the further down the field Miami got.  There is still work to be done, but we appear to be ahead of where I expected them to be at this point

2. We may actually have a running game!

My fingers are crossed on this one.  Our running backs totaled 165 rushing yards and 2 TD on 32 total carries Sunday night.  That is a hell of a lot better than we were running the ball at any point last season.  Phillip Tanner totaled 59 yards and 1 TD on 10 carries and rookie Joseph Randle looked strong also carrying the ball 13 times for 70 yards.  If we can develop an effective, consistent rushing attack to take the pressure off of Tony Romo and our receivers, our offense has a chance to be very dangerous.  It appears Bill Callahan is going for some balance this year, and with these backs we can have a very strong 1-2 punch, no matter who they pair with Murray for the bulk of the carries.

3. George Selvie was a great pickup.

Selvie has had his struggles since entering the NFL, but the 2007 Big East Defensive Player of the Year had a strong showing in Canton.  He has the size and skills to be a solid player, he just needs to put it all together.  I have a feeling he will be an excellent backup at the 4-3 DE spot behind Demarcus Ware.  He could play some productive snaps for us this season and I think he is a player to watch this preseason.

Most importantly, this first game means that football is finally back.  I cannot wait to see the starters finally get some game action this Friday, when Dallas travels to Oakland to take on the Raiders.