Battle brewing at running back

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
8:00
AM ET
SAN DIEGO -- The Cowboys are nearing the end of the training camp practices, but there is a battle growing for a spot as a backup running back.

DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones aren't going anywhere.

Behind them are Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. But injuries to those two have allowed fullback Jamize Olawale to emerge into the conversation.

Dunbar returned to practice Monday, but Tanner won't return until next week. Neither have played in a preseason game.

"They're all in the mix," running backs coach Skip Peete said. "We have to evaluate that at the end of the day."

Olawale's biggest thing is playing at pad level, which means he runs straight up and he needs to bend down more so he can inflict punishment on opposing tacklers.

Olawale has speed and showed some movement when holes are not present.

"He's a bigger guy, he's 235 pounds," Peete said. "Obviously he'll have a thrust; whether or not he has more power, I don't know. He's still learning how to play the position. He's still learning how to get his pads down a little lower to deliver a blow to the defense. Once he masters that, he can be a force to reckon with."

Dunbar is expected to play this week and Tanner should be a go for the final preseason game. Both players, however, are behind in reps and opportunities to impress the coaches.

"He's got to get back in there and get a feel," Peete said of Dunbar. "(Monday) it felt foreign to him. He's a talented runner. He's a much better protector than I anticipated for a guy his size. That's a plus for him and that's impressive. He's a very explosive player and very dangerous. I'm excited to see what he can do in a preseason game."

Peete noted Dunbar and Tanner were doing well before injuries sidelined them.

"He's mentally into what we're doing" Peete said of Tanner. "He's got a feel into what we're doing and of our offense. We got to give him an opportnty to get in there as a runner."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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