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Cowboys still seek replacement for Murray

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The Sports Xchange

IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys’ decision to let NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray walk in free agency was a frugal and bold one.

Murray was the heart and soul of the offense last season, surpassing Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith’s single-season team rushing record with 1,845 yards, leading the NFL in rushing and earning NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors.

But the Cowboys refused to meet his contract demands in the offseason, allowing him to sign with the rival Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.

Now they are faced with the task of finding a suitable replacement for Murray and his production — either with one back or by committee.

The Cowboys will continue to look for options at running back via free agency and throughout training camp in August.

And there’s that long-rumored trade for disgruntled Vikings running back Adrian Peterson that just won’t die.

Short of that, the Cowboys will have go with what they have — Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Ryan Williams and Lance Dunbar.

Again, the Cowboys believe they have some pieces on the roster to get the job done as a committee if not individually.

“I got to give all those guys credit,” running backs coach Gary Brown said. “I’m trying to mix them in. They are all getting chances with the ones and they are performing,” running backs coach Gary Brown said. “They know there is a job to be won and they all want it. But at the same time they are going to work hard to get better. If they get better, the team gets better. We don’t have a winner right now. We will see what happens when the time comes.”

As good as Murray was last year, there is a belief among the Cowboys that the biggest reason for their and his success was the presence of the league’s best offensive line, which featured three Pro Bowlers in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and guard Zack Martin.

There is even a belief that Murray’s numbers can be duplicated if not improved upon considering that he was more of a power runner than breakaway threat and left yardage on the field that that his speedier potential replacements would feast upon.

“He had a good year last year, and I got to sit back and watch a lot and I felt like there was a lot of meat left on the bone,” Randle said.

Randle averaged 6.7 yards per carry in brief opportunities as Murray’s primary backup. His biggest task this offseason is proving that he can be trusted. He was arrested for shoplifting during the season last year and was investigated for domestic violence this offseason. The latter was later dropped.

“I learned to come out here and keep grinding every day no matter what you’re going through in life,” Randle said. “Football has always been an escape for me. Everything you go through in life you learn from it and I learned from it and I’ve moved past it.

“I’ve grown up. I’ve made some young and silly mistakes but I’m moving forward. When I come in here, this is where I want to be, especially working around a group of guys who I’m working around. Just be here day in and day out and earning Tony’s trust and all the older guys’ trust, the whole team’s trust, including the coaching staff. I got a lot of work to do.”

There is no questioning Randle’s confidence. He believes he is the man for the job.

“If they ask me to do that, I’m ready for it,” Randle said. “I’m ready for it, and if they believe in me, I believe in myself, that’s for sure.”

McFadden is the most intriguing possibility as a former 2008 first-round bust of the Oakland Raiders. He rushed for just 4,247 yards in seven injury-plagued seasons there before signing with the Cowboys in March.

McFadden, who has not averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry since 2011, believes he can have a breakout season in Dallas because of the presence of the league’s best offensive line to go along with a proven quarterback in Tony Romo and an overall better environment than Oakland.

“I feel great,” McFadden said. “It’s a lot of opportunity for me here. I have a lot of great players around me. I just want to work hard. I know I come with a lot of tags. But I just want come out there and grind. However people want to look at it, I’m not going to put a big emphasis on. I’m grinding, I’m running like it’s my last time.”

The Cowboys believe McFadden is a perfect fit for their zone-blocking scheme, which should also be a key difference in why he could have success here he didn’t achieve in Oakland. He is a one-cut runner who likes to get downhill.

“He is a great for the outside-zone scheme,” Brown said. “He is a put his foot in the ground type guy. He wants to get going forward. He has tremendous speed. That is a positive. We just have to get him going on the other stuff. I think he is working hard to get there. I like what I see. He works hard. He had tremendous burst, tremendous speed. I can’t wait to see him in pads. He is smart and he is hungry. He wants to prove that he wasn’t the bust that people are talking about. We are going to give him the opportunity to prove that.”


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