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Dallas Cowboys

Rushing To Greatness



The question on everyone’s mind these days is and will continue to be, how and better still can Jason Garrett use the wealth of running backs he has at his disposal?

With the start of training camp rapidly approaching one would think that Jason Garrett is hard at work devising a plan to optimize the abundance of talent he has at the running back position??????

The Cowboys invested #1 money on Marion Barber to be the #1 guy, but we are all aware of the fact that Marion is better suited to be fresh in the fourth quarter!

The Cowboys also used a first round selection last year on Felix Jones, so there is an extremely high need to get him touches as well.

Then let’s not forget about the 2008 unsung hero from Georgia Tech, Tashard Choice! When the Cowboys were decimated by injuries Choice stepped in and performed at an extremely high level.

These are three very different running backs which will allow Jason Garrett a ton of flexibility.

Marion Barber: Marion is the head knocker of the group, while he is not a burner so the big plays you get from him are more of the “just ran over three people on his way to a 20 yard touchdown” variety. However with his hard nosed running style his body wears down much quicker than the elusive style back.

Felix Jones: Felix is the epitome of a “Home run hitter” there is not one spot on the field where he cannot score from. Possessing speed, agility, vision, and great hands. Felix Jones is in the mold of a Reggie Bush type. For all the good qualities he possesses the one concern with him is his ability to stay off the injured list.

Tashard Choice: Tashard is very much so one of the most vocal leaders on this team. He is the most complete back of the group, while he is not the fastest or strongest he can do a lot of good in many areas. He has the ability to give opposing defenses many different looks. The only question with Tashard is, was last year legit or did he catch some teams off guard and worn down?

What is considered by many (including myself) to be the biggest strength of this years team, could possibly be a nightmare for Jason Garrett? If Garrett fails to adequately use this group, the wheels of this season could come flying off!

There has been many people try this off season to predict how many touches each man should receive on a per game basis. While there is no one good way or rule to go by, many claim a sequence such as this:

Marion Barber: 15-20 Touches

Felix Jones: 10-15 Touches

Tashard Choice: 5-10 touches

This appears to be a solid marker to follow, but I am not a big fan of this way of thinking. I just feel that if you set yourself boundaries, you ultimately are setting yourself up for failure.

The amount of touches this unit gets (designed running plays) should be and I believe will be handled on a game by game, scenario by scenario basis.

Jason Garrett needs to know what he has, and to put the player and the team in good situations. Part of knowing what he has is going to be the recognition of what situations the player performs at his peak.

Many people including myself marvel at the closing ability of Marion Barber, while this is a very true statement there is something that must be taken into account. The only time his closing ability will come into affect is if this team is ahead in the fourth quarter and that they can continue to pick up first downs.

Jason Garrett cannot become predictable with his formations or his sub packages, the defenses cannot be given the luxury of simply looking in the backfield to see who is there and know what the play is.

The Cowboys should be able to line up two if not all three on the field in certain situations.

If I was a betting man I would have to say that Felix Jones will spend a lot of time this year lined up out wide and in the slot. Allowing Garrett to give teams a full dose of Marion and Tashard early and often!

The first half of games this year will be crucial to the success of the team. They need to be able to establish the ground game early on. The score at the end of the first half is not the most important thing.

The rest of the league knows what the Cowboys have at the running back position; So Garrett will be forced to make some crucial decisions very early on in games.

Teams will simply overload the line of scrimmage and try to force Garrett to give up on the run. He must be strong willed enough to fight off the urge to open up the air attack! We all saw what happened when this team became so one dimensional last year.

Those 90’s Cowboys teams were the best at simply beating a team into submission by the 3rd quarter.  This team has something that those teams did not, depth! There is no need for 35 carries a game to one man, this team can run a different guy through the holes in the line like fans through the turnstiles!

If this team and Jason Garrett use what is available to them correctly, there will be nothing that anyone can do about it! That is one big IF though.

  • Doran Palmer

    It certainly is a big if, but as stated many times before, this is a great problem to have. The key will be injuries. Jones flashed enough of his speed that teams knew he was coming and going in a hurry, and they still couldn’t stop him. To start the season there won’t be any more film to watch than last year on him, and knowing that this is now a three back team, two of which most people don’t really know very well, teams will be getting burned early and often.

    It will be key to stay injury free and see how long this team can sustain that production during the year as more and more teams study the running backs.

  • Jonathan

    I couldn’t agree with you more in regards to the failings of following set numbers to distribute the ball to each RB. The situation should dictate what player is ideal. Jason Garrett should tailor his running game for each opposing team, dependent on what type of defense they are facing, what their weaknesses and strengths are, and what has worked against them in the past when playing other teams.

  • eric

    I agree with most of what you are saying. MB3 and Felix should get the bulk of the carries, but all should be utilized and they should be unpredictable with the order. Go with whoever has the hot hand and play on the opposition’s expectations.

    The only thing I disagree with is your statement “we are all aware of the fact that Marion is better suited to be fresh in the fourth quarter!”. I don’t agree. I think he can be solid when ever he plays. I wouldn’t be opposed to starting MB3, and using Tashard Choice in the cleanup roll. (I wouldn’t be opposed to TC starting and MB3 finishing either.)

    His numbers are comparable in both roles..
    In the “finisher role”
    16 games played.. 204 attempts for 975 yards and 10 TDs

    Last year as a starter
    15 games played (several which he played injured)… 238 attempts for 885 and 7 TDs

    My point is that MB3 is a solid back who runs hard and tough and can be used anytime. He may or may not be a “full time back”, but I don’t think he HAS to be with the 3 guys the Cowboys have. And I don’t buy that he is best used only in the configuration from 2007 (Julius Jones starting and MB3 finishing).

    Also Felix Jones doesn’t really have an injury history so I wouldn’t be a worry wart or be overly concerned about his “ability to stay off the injured list”.

    • bags030404

      Essentially you proved my point! you used some very good information to prove it too!

      “In the “finisher role”
      16 games played.. 204 attempts for 975 yards and 10 TDs

      Last year as a starter
      15 games played (several which he played injured)… 238 attempts for 885 and 7 TDs

      If you will look at that in one less game in which he averaged 3 more carries per game he scored 3 less TD’s and 90 less yards and his YPG went from 4.78 p/g down to 3.7 p/g!
      I am not saying he cannot be a starter, what I am saying is that about 15 carries a game is where he needs to be. I would rather have him fresh and ready to deliver 8-10 of those carries when it counts most!

  • Luis

    Unfortunately, the 90’s teams had way more power on the unit that counts more in a run oriented offense: O-Line. Emmit was able to touch the ball 20+ times because he was barely untouched until 2.45 yards after the line of scrimmage. And consistently. This trio don’t have that. That is what worries me. Forget T.O., Roy Williams bust or not, Romo and Jessica. The O-Line Needs to be a powerhouse.

    • bags030404

      Luis, while I would love to completely agree with your assessment I cannot fully agree. The O-Line was better as a whole, but what made them better in my humble opinion is that the offense as whole was dedicated to the run! They did not run just because the situation called for it! They ran because they wanted to! This line has taken a good bit of criticism and while some of it is warranted a lot of it is not. This line is HUGE one of if not the biggest in football, and big o -linemen are built for the running game, not to hold a block for what seems like 10 minutes so a receiver can run a triple move 40 yards down field!

  • eric

    “In the “finisher role”
    16 games played.. 204 attempts for 975 yards and 10 TDs

    Last year as a starter
    15 games played (several which he played injured)… 238 attempts for 885 and 7 TDs

    Do not believe this info prooves your point that “we are all aware of the fact that Marion is better suited to be fresh in the fourth quarter!”. It’s no where as simple as that.

    You forget that:
    They played 3 games with Brad Johnson as QB. Defenses were playing the run for these game. Looking at the first 5 games of the season, before Romo’s injury, he was averaging 4.12 yards a carry, and had 5 TDs. The next game Romo got injured. And the next few games (TB, Giants, and Skins) he did have a decline while defenses keyed on the run. Shortly after he got injured. He tried to play injured against some very tough defenses late in the season and it really dragged down his “yards per carry” stat. Still he had 7 TDs and only 90 less yards than the year before.
    I’ll add too that I believe that the OL under-performed in middle part of the season. Just my opinion.. but just didn’t seem like they were doing very well in creating holes for the run in OctNov (because Kosier was out?)

    So, my point is that you can’t really say that the stats above clearly show that “15 carries a game” is where he “NEEDS to be”, and that “better suited to be fresh in the fourth quarter!”.

    I defintely agree with you that I’d rather them split the carries up and use all 3 backs (in any order that works). My reasoning though is that they have 3 good RBs, so they might as well use them all to keep them all fresh and the defenses off balance. My reasoning ISN’T that MB3 cannot handle the load and can only be most successful as a “finisher”.

    • bags030404

      I never said anywhere in this article that “Marion can only play the finisher role!” I simply said that he is better suited for being in there and fresh in the 4th Q! It is not a knock against him! In fact it is a compliment! Do you not want your most punishing and polished RB in there to close out a game? I hate to bust your bubble again but the numbers you are using to prove your statement are the exact reason why he needs to be fresh for the 4th Q! Do you remember Julius Jones? Yes that guy played here and he started and MBIII made a name for himself and received a huge contract for closing out games! Do you remember the playoff loss to the Giants, when he rushed for over a hundred in the first half of his first start, only to be visibly worn down in the second half and the dominant rush attack from the first half was non existent? I am not saying that it is a “theory” that MBIII would be better suited for the closer role, it is fact and has been proven time and time again! Just in case you missed those games last year against the really tough defenses, there was a little guy named TC and he had zero problems finding the holes that the OL opened! We will save the OLine discussion for another day though, maybe my next post will be about that! Good idea Eric thanks.

  • Doran Palmer

    Eric, there’s one fact about MBIII that proves that he is better suited as a closer in most capacities – his first year as a starter and he suffered two injuries that hampered for the final quarter of the season. Injuries being what they are, you can’t say for sure that 5they were caused by the extra carries and his bruising style, but it’s a good bet and one the Cowboys likely won’t flirt with again.

    Another fact – he made the Pro Bowl as the closer but not as the starter. It’s not a definite ideal since Pro Bowl voting can be fickle at times.

    The numbers you posted seem to indicate that he was more successful in the closer role because his yards per carry were higher, his total yards were higher, and he had more TDs. Factors such as injuries and the passing game/quarterback play do factor into it, of course, but you have to take everything as a package. 2008 showed that Barber is more effective as a closer.

    As for the O-Line, you are close to being right about Kosier. Kosier missed most of the season. The running game got better when Holland was in there, but when Proctor was in there, Adams and Gurode were both helping him keep his blocks which diminished their own production and in turn hurt the running lanes.

    Barber is a good back, he gets the job done. He isn’t a home run hitter by any means, though. To me, MBIII is better suited as a fullback because he is tough, has a strong running style, and he can block very well. An NFL team can still utilize a fullback in today’s league and if we did so as the early 90’s Cowboys, then we could see similar success with Jones and Choice to what Emmett saw back then with Moose blocking for him.

  • eric

    I really don’t understand what you are reading, bags.

    bags030404: I never said anywhere in this article that “Marion can only play the finisher role!”
    I never said that you said that. You did say though that ““We are all aware of the fact that Marion is better suited to be fresh in the fourth quarter!”.”
    That’s your opinion (and a theory) but hardly a fact. Those particular statistics by themselves only show a small percentage of the picture and do not make your opinion a fact, that’s all I’m saying. It’s a bit pompous of you to post your opinion as fact, though I admit it is your right. Blogs are well sutied for personal opinions and observations. I’m glad you have some passion about it and will continue to read more of your opinions in the future cause I love talking Cowboys.

    bags030404: there was a little guy named TC and he had zero problems finding the holes that the OL opened!
    Yes he did very well, but notice these were in later games. It was my contention that the OL under performed in the MIDDLE OF THE SEASON (OctoberNovember as stated). Choice had all of 20ish attempts in those months so your statement has nothing to do with my point. We just don’t know what MB3 would’ve done in December if he was healthy so it’s moot.
    On the subject of Choice though, since you brought it up, my opinion is that the verdict is still out. He had a great December, but I seem to remember Julius Jones having a decent season in there before slipping into mediocrity.

  • bags030404

    “That’s your opinion (and a theory) but hardly a fact. Those particular statistics by themselves only show a small percentage of the picture and do not make your opinion a fact, that’s all I’m saying. It’s a bit pompous of you to post your opinion as fact, though I admit it is your right.”
    Forgive me if I came across as pompous, but I am a numbers kind of a guy! Numbers do not lie! and in the case of MBIII and when he is better suited to be used is no different! It is a proven fact that when he carries the ball less than 15 times per game his yards per carry increase by almost a full yard per carry! This is not a “Theory” this is “Fact”! I love having these types of discussions so keep them coming! By all means if you have some information that can prove me wrong bring it!

Game Notes

SEA 24, DAL 13: Cowboys Offensive Woes Continue

Jess Haynie



Ezekiel Elliott, Connor Williams, Seahawks
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Inefficient passing and turnovers cost the Dallas Cowboys today, leading to a 24-13 loss to the previously winless Seahawks in Seattle.

Dallas's offense produced just a single field goal by halftime, with Dak Prescott only completing two of his first nine passes for just four yards. He got better as the game went on, but still finished with just 168 passing yards and a single touchdown.

The box score will say Prescott threw two interceptions, but one was a bobbled catch by Michael Gallup. The other was not a good throw, trying to find Blake Jarwin in traffic. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner went up and caused a tipped ball.

Both picks ended up in the hands, and ankle, of Seattle safety Earl Thomas. He drew a taunting penalty for bowing at the Dallas sideline on his second INT, almost as if mocking the team for not giving up enough to trade for him.

Ezekiel Elliott did have a big day on the ground; 127 yards on just 16 carries. It's his first 100-yard game of 2018. But the fact Dallas couldn't capitalize on Zeke's production was just further indication of their offensive dysfunction.

Hurry home, Travis Frederick. Who knew you were our Offensive MVP?

Other Notes

  • While Zeke did have a strong rushing performance, two critical errors were big parts of the Cowboys' loss. An early TD catch was called back because Zeke stepped out of bounds before making the reception. Also, Elliott's fumble in the 4th quarter squandered a strong drive that could have started Dallas' comeback attempt sooner.
  • Dallas' defense looked good early but clearly wore down over time. Seattle RB Chris Carson ground out 102 rushing yards on 32 carries. Russell Wilson took advantage of some miscues in the secondary for two touchdown passes and 192 passing yards.
  • Tyrone Crawford got called for another bogus "roughing the passer" penalty after a clean hit on Wilson early in the game. The NFL has to get this figured out, because it's becoming a bigger eyesore for the league than any amount of kneeling ever did.
  • Tavon Austin got his second touchdown catch this year, the only Cowboy to record a receiving TD so far this year. Tight end Geoff Swaim had five catches for 47 yards, reminding the world that Dallas actually has TEs on their roster.
  • Speaking of which, as Troy Aikman commented on during the game, Rico Gathers was not used in redzone passing situations. Why is Gathers dressing for games and not being utilized in the one situation where he's not a liability?
  • Sean Lee left the game after reaggravating the hamstring injury he suffered last week. It meant more playing time for first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who reminded you of Lee with how he was getting to the ball. Both finished the game credited with 11 tackles each.
  • Rookie guard Connor Williams continues to struggle when up against powerful defensive tackles. It's not a surprise for a converted college tackle, but growing pains still cost you on game day. Dallas may have to consider starting Joe Looney at guard once Travis Frederick comes back.
  • Kicker Brett Maher went 2/2 today on field goals, including a 50-yarder. He has hit four straight after missing his one attempt against Carolina in Week 1.
  • The rest of the NFC East won their games today. That puts Philly and Washington at 2-1 and now evens up the Cowboys and Giants at 1-2.
  • Dallas returns home next week to host the Detroit Lions, who are currently 0-2. They play the Patriots tonight.

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Game Notes

Why The Seahawks Will Be Looking Into A Mirror Against The Cowboys Sunday

Kevin Brady



Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

For the better part of the last decade one defense has reigned supreme over the NFC. One defense has continually put their offense and team in position to win big games, including a dominant Super Bowl win over one of the more productive offenses in recent memory.

That defense, of course, belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.

With a secondary deemed as the "Legion of Boom" and a defensive line which rotated through Pro Bowl level talent routinely, the Seahawks bolstered one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. A defense which perfectly complimented the physical, run first philosophy their offense lived by.

Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner will arguably be Hall of Famers one day, and they wreaked havoc on the conference for a strong 3-5 year stretch.

Now, however, things are changing.

Gone are many of the elite players which once bolstered the Seattle defense to top-tier status, and while some big names remain, the talent level simply isn't the same. The Seahawks missed the postseason a year ago, and now sit at 0-2 before their home opener today against the Cowboys.

Their window looks to be closed, while their opponent today is looking to build their defense (and team) in the mold of what once was in Seattle.

Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard has come to Dallas and brought with him a more aggressive defensive philosophy, one which he deployed successfully with the Seahawks. Under Richard the Cowboys are blitzing more often on third down than they have in the past under Rod Marinelli, they're utilizing more single high safety looks, and they are allowing their long and talented corners to do what they do best in coverage.

The Seahawks once leaned on a deep pass rush and long, physical secondary. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.

The Seahawks once leaned on a mobile quarterback to make plays with his feet while relying on a strong running game and one of the league's best backs. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.

Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie look like they were molded in a 2013-Seahawks lab as cornerbacks, and DeMarcus Lawrence is as productive as any pass rusher those defenses had. Of course, we aren't able to say the Cowboys have the consistent front four depth that those Seattle teams did or that they have the single high safety of Earl Thomas' caliber, but the preliminary pieces are clearly in place.

Today the Cowboys look to improve to 2-1 with a conference road win. But, they also look to bury the Seahawks in the past and take another step towards cementing themselves as one of the elite defenses in the NFC.

It won't happen over night, but anyone can see that the potential is there.

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Player News

Could Cowboys DT Datone Jones Earn Starting Role with Maliek Collins Out?

Sean Martin



Could Cowboys DT Datone Jones Earn Starting Role with Maliek Collins Out?

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins is out for Sunday's game at the Seahawks with a sprained knee, further opening the door for Datone Jones to earn his spot among the "Hot Boyz". The moniker given to the Cowboys front seven this season, the team's depth up front has been a strength in totaling nine sacks through two games.

Last season, Datone Jones was a part of this rotation late in the year. Coming on strong at the 3T position while Maliek Collins played at the 1T, Jones is the type of versatile defender with veteran experience that Rod Marinelli can get the most out of.

Returning from a knee injury himself, Jones may take some time to be the disruptive interior player we saw at the end of 2017. Through two games, the Cowboys had played Collins at his original position of 3T, with Antwaun Woods doing more than enough to continue playing at 1T.

This potentially makes Collins and Jones two players fighting for one spot. Collins followed up his performance at the Panthers with a sack of Cam Newton by constantly playing in the Giants' backfield last week.

John Owning on Twitter

Guessing that means no Irving, I'd say Tyrone Crawford then Antwaun Woods. I have high hopes for Datone Jones once he returns though.

A player determined to not let his team's misuse slow down his progress, after an incredible rookie season at 3T, Collins is returning from his second broken foot in three years.

Through his five years in the NFL, Jones has only played a full 16 games once.

The most games Datone has started in a season is four. Maliek Collins should like his chances of playing over Jones once both are healthy, and the Cowboys should be equally thrilled with the opportunity to keep both fresh in rotation.

Following Sunday's game in Seattle and next week against the Lions, the Cowboys can return David Irving from suspension to play all over their defensive line - his best position also being at three technique.

Without the wealth of talent they now have at all four positions up front, the Cowboys have had too many bodies to fill similar roles in the past. Thanks to the addition of Kris Richard along with strong edge play from Taco Charlton and rookie Dorance Armstrong, the Cowboys defensive line can do no wrong in 2018, and using Jones in week three and beyond should only add to this.

The Cowboys biggest key to success against the Seahawks will be containing Russell Wilson. Pressuring him in his face to collapse the pocket gives Dallas a chance to really slow the Seahawks offense, something they'll be relying on Jones to help them do as DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory also work with favorable match ups at defensive end.

Tell us what you think about "Could Cowboys DT Datone Jones Earn Starting Role with Maliek Collins Out?" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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