Because of the injuries to Darren McFadden and the minor setback to Lance Dunbar, the door has been left wide open for Joe Randle to cement himself as the lead back when the Cowboys begin their season on September 13th against the Giants.
The thought throughout the offseason was that Dallas would enter 2015 with a running back by committee approach, which may very well turn out to be the case. But, with McFadden’s injury history and Dunbar, a change of pace back, this presents Randle with a chance to show that he can be the Cowboys feature back in 2015.
When looking at Randle’s game tape, there are five things that certainly suggest he can, in fact, handle the load as an every-down back in the NFL.
#1 – Vision
Randle possesses excellent vision to identify the hole or cutback lane and get up the field for positive yardage, which is perfect for the Cowboys zone blocking scheme.
#2 – Receiving
Has soft hands and runs nice routes. The ability to adjust to the football, while it’s in the air, to be in position to catch, turn, and get up the field.
#3 – Speed
Randle’s film shows that he plays faster than his timed 4.5 forty coming out of college and is a threat to break off long runs anytime he has the ball.
#4 – Hunger
After being the main man at Oklahoma State, Randle has been stuck on the bench serving as Murray’s primary backup and is ready to show what he can do in the NFL.
#5 – Health
This will be his third year in the Cowboys strength and conditioning program, and hasn’t taken a beating only carrying the ball 105 times in two years.
The biggest questions surrounding Randle have been: Will he stay out of trouble off the field? Pass protection? Can he sustain the grind of an every down back?
The off-field issues are simple, this is his chance to shine. If he can’t keep his nose clean then he’s a complete and utter bonehead who doesn’t deserve to be in the league at all.
Running backs have to be able to pass protect in the Dallas offense; and while Randle struggles to anchor and keep himself from getting pushed back into the quarterback, he is willing and with a little extra work should be more than capable.
Can he handle the workload in the NFL? While that remains to be seen, Randle’s college career certainly suggests that he can. If you compare Randle to Murray in rush attempts and receptions, their career average per year is almost exactly the same—Randle 224 and Murray 229—a whopping difference of 5.
With just five weeks until opening kickoff of the 2015 season, Randle is going to have every opportunity to show the coaching staff that he’s more than capable to not only replace Murray but improve the Dallas rushing attack. It’s all on him.
What do you think, Randle can become the Cowboys feature back? Comment below or tweet me at @shane_denney72