Second in a series breaking down the Cowboys by position (previous entries):
Good bets: Deon Anderson
On the bubble: None
The most complete back on the Dallas Cowboys is Tashard Choice. He's a blocker, he's a catcher and he's a runner. In this offense, you have to have the ability to do all three.
Marion Barber does have that ability. I like the fact that he looks slimmer, and he's actually healthy. That's going to bode well for him. There were times last year where plays were blocked to go 8 yards and he was gaining 3. You need to see him get back to that Marion Barber who is more productive, finishing runs. Maybe punishing is a bad word, but if the play is blocked for 10 yards, get 10 yards. Don't get half of that or a quarter of that. Maybe that will all change since he's healthy now. I like the way he looks physically. He looks quicker and more elusive at this current body structure, having shed about 10 pounds this offseason.
Felix Jones is the home run back on this team. He has shown toughness as an inside runner but is really an outside runner. He's really a lineman's best friend, because they don't have to hold their block for any length of time with this guy. He's explosive to get through the hole or to the edge and get to the second level. The fact that he's so explosive, I think you have to have him on the field as much as possible. He's the one guy who can score from any point on the field, so any time you can incorporate him into the offense more, there's a chance for bigger plays. This will be his third year, and I think he's getting an understanding of how the pro game is played. I don't see durability being a problem now. You can give him the ball 15 times and he'll be fine.
Choice can start on a lot of teams, but I don't know where his touches will come. He's one of the most valuable insurance policies you could have, but with this current configuration, he's not going to get a lot of touches even though he is what they want in a back with the running, catching and blocking. Unless something happens with one of the other two, I think he'll continue the role he was in last season.
At fullback, you probably need a more consistent player. Tight end John Phillips did a nice job as a point-of-attack blocker last year when he played that role. As a fullback, you really can't be a 50 percent blocker, and that's what Deon Anderson was last year. He's the only realistic fullback candidate on the roster, but the Cowboys could opt to keep an extra tight end instead.
One of the other tailbacks -- Herb Donaldson or Lonyae Miller -- will be on the practice squad. I'd say probably Donaldson. I think he's got a good feel as a runner. I've watched him bounce some runs outside, get on the edge and was pretty impressed.