Five Wonders: Cowboys really a running team?

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- It's time for the third installment of Five Wonders, training camp style, and not one will be about Johnny Manziel and the Dallas Cowboys.
  • I wonder if we need to tap the brakes on the Cowboys' commitment to the run so far in the preseason. It's been nice to see Scott Linehan dedicated to the run in the first two preseason games. Against the Baltimore Ravens, the Cowboys' first-team offense had 14 official plays. Nine of them were runs. In the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers, six of the first eight plays were runs. It's all about establishing a mindset. The Cowboys want to be a physical team. But let me take you back to the first preseason game last year with Bill Callahan as the playcaller. The Cowboys ran it 34 times for 140 yards against the Miami Dolphins. In five preseason games, they averaged 26 runs per game. Then in the regular season the running backs and receivers had 315 carries. I'm not saying the Cowboys won't run the ball more than they did in 2013. I am saying what this team will do best will be putting three wide receivers on the field (or a tight end in that No. 3 spot) and spread opposing defense out. It's good to see the Cowboys focus on the run in the preseason, but don't look for it to be their identity when the games count.
  • As we fall in love with guys like Zach Minter, Ryan Williams and Jamar Newsome, I wonder if we need to pay more attention to who their success came against. It was against backups to the backups on the Ravens. Minter played early in the game and was manhandled on a touchdown run. He was much better against the backups. I asked Jason Garrett if they evaluate a player based on the competition on Monday. "You got to make sure you recognize the competition," Garrett said. "But I also say that, that was the opportunity that that player had. He had the chance to go work against that opponent and this is what he did. That's a good thing. Now let's give him another chance to go against maybe someone more established. Go from working against the 3s to working against the 2s and maybe then the 1s. You never want to hold that against the player because that was the chance he got and he took advantage of it. But you do have to be mindful of who's he going against." In other words, don't get carried away just yet.
  • Speaking of Williams, I wonder if the Cowboys could finagle something in a trade for him. And, yes, maybe I'm contradicting myself here based on the previous Wonder. He came to the Cowboys with a good pedigree after the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the second round. He just couldn't stay healthy in Arizona, playing in five games in three years. He's had a good summer. His performance against the Ravens was flashy. It was good to see. But as I wrote in Monday's 53-man roster projection, what he and Joseph Randle do are pretty much the same. Neither is a special teams' stalwart but Randle has been better. Randle has improved as a pass blocker too. On game day it would be difficult to keep both of them active. If Williams closes out the preseason with two quality games, the Cowboys might be able to get a late-round or conditional pick for him -- or Randle potentially -- to break the logjam at tailback and give them more options in the future.
  • I wonder how active the Cowboys will be around the final cuts. They will look for help along the defensive line and potentially cornerback. I can see them looking for backup offensive line help a well. Last year the Cowboys traded for Edgar Jones from Kansas City and Caesar Rayford from Indianapolis. They dealt Sean Lissemore to San Diego and Dante Rosario to Chicago. They claimed Kyle Bosworth off waivers from the New York Giants. The Cowboy can like how their young players have developed this summer, but are they developing quickly enough to win games in 2014? Here's a mini-Wonder inside a Wonder: As we attempt to project the 53-man roster on a weekly basis, I wonder if the Cowboys cut their roster to 50 or so with the idea that they will add players after the final cuts.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys try to hide guys in the final preseason games. Does Dustin Vaughan need to play again? If the Cowboys want to get him on the practice squad, maybe it would be wise to sit him so another team wouldn't be so intrigued. It was a little surprising to see Chris Boyd not play against the Baltimore Ravens. The undrafted receiver has done a nice job. Maybe it's not enough to make the 53-man roster but enough to move to the practice squad. Dartwan Bush could make the final roster considering the state of the defensive line, but he's showed some pop after earning an invite to camp following a rookie-camp tryout.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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