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Saturday, August 31, 2013
Phillip Tanner finishes preseason strong

By Calvin Watkins

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When the evening was over, Dallas Cowboys backup running back Phillip Tanner walked to his stall in the locker room with his right leg wrapped tightly.

Phillip Tanner
Entering his third season with the Dallas Cowboys, Phillip Tanner has evolved into a reliable RB.
Tanner said his leg was fine, but his game was better.

He finished the final preseason game, a 24-6 loss to the Houston Texans, with 35 yards on six carries on Thursday night.

While the Cowboys have talked about the solid play of DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar and rookie Joseph Randle, Tanner averaged 4.2 yards per carry in the preseason on 37 attempts. He solidified himself as someone the Cowboys can depend on as a running back and for special teams work.

"I feel I did well," Tanner said of his preseason. "Compliments to the offensive line and the coaching staff for even giving me an opportunity. But overall, I feel I did well but still have room for improvement and that's going to come throughout the season."

The Cowboys' issues with the run game come from making a commitment to it and executing it.

Last season the Cowboys finished 31st in the NFL in rushing. Murray missed six games with a sprained foot, which prompted the team to draft Randle in the fifth round this spring to add depth to the position. Dunbar's emergence as a speed back on third down and the potential of having an every down back on reserves has improved the team overall at running back.

This preseason, the Cowboys attempted 124 runs with their running backs, including 32 runs in the Hall of Fame game. To say the Cowboys are committed to the run game, is an understatement to what the new play caller, Bill Callahan wants to do, and how much the new running backs coach, Gary Brown, is asking of his group. He wants his backs to make one cut and then head upfield. Brown said he watched film too many times in 2012 where the Cowboys' running backs left yards on the field. Brown said he doesn't care if the Cowboys get one or two yards on a carry, because that's better than losing three or four yards.

It seems Tanner has adapted well to this because he's not dancing when he gets to the line of scrimmage and is hitting holes hard.

"You know my mindset is still the same from Day 1, try and impress these coaches and show up everyday on the film and just get better at what I do," Tanner said. "Everyday just go out and be with my guys, my teammates, and overall try and get better than I was last year."