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Cowboys don't have running back to match their philosophy

Philosophically, the Dallas Cowboys want to win games with the running game as the epicenter of their offense, which means quarterback Tony Romo doesn’t have to be their savior every week.

They're going to attempt to do it in 2016 with a running back with a history of breaking down, another coming off the worst season of his career and a third who suffered a torn ACL last October and who might not be ready to play when the season begins in September.

This approach makes little sense.

Of course, Jason Garrett would disagree. So would offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

They'd tell you about Darren McFadden finishing fourth in the NFL with 1,089 yards despite starting just 10 games. If you watched the games, then you know McFadden had a good year statistically, though his numbers didn't translate to wins.

He wasn't effective enough to make teams commit an eighth defender to stop the Cowboys' running game, and he no longer has the top-end speed to be a difference-maker.

In the first quarter of a December game against Green Bay, Zack Martin and Doug Free opened a huge hole off right tackle and McFadden zoomed through it. At first, he seemed certain to score a 62-yard touchdown; instead he was pulled down at the Green Bay 12. The drive ended with a Matt Cassel interception.

The Cowboys signed Alfred Morris, a 27-year-old runner let go by a division rival, to a two-year deal worth $3.75 million. He has nearly 1,100 carries the past four years, more than any NFL player, and his yardage totals have dipped from 1,613 as a rookie to 751 last season.

More important, perhaps, is that Morris has been at his best against the Cowboys, with 710 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games. Three of his 13 100-yard games, including the only 200-yard game of his career, came against the Cowboys.

The issue is that the Cowboys are putting quite a bit of pressure on their offensive line to make average runners good instead of putting a good runner behind them whom they can make great, which is what they did with DeMarco Murray, who gained 1,845 yards on 392 carries in 2014.

It's why they should take a quality runner in the second or third round of the draft and let McFadden and Morris compete for the backup job behind whichever rookie they draft.

Then there's Lance Dunbar, who signed a one-year deal and could help the offense if he's ready to play at the level we saw last season. But he's coming off a serious knee injury, so no one would be surprised if he starts the season on the physically unable to perform list.

History has shown Romo is significantly better when he throws the ball no more than 30 times a game. The Cowboys are 38-11 in such games and 41-38 in his other 79 starts.

The Cowboys have the right philosophy. Now, they just need the right runner.