Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Lance Dunbar's return is positive sign
By Calvin Watkins
Tony Romo returned to the Dallas Cowboys' practice fields at Valley Ranch on Monday morning to participate in the offseason program. Romo's presence in the weight room and on the field throwing footballs is a positive sign in his return from back surgery.
Cowboys officials have said Romo is on target to participate in these offseason workouts. And while Romo's health is getting better, another player's return to the practice fields should be viewed as a positive, too: Lance Dunbar.
The scat back suffered a nasty knee injury on Thanksgiving Day against the Raiders, which prompted team officials to describe all the needed work done on his leg. Dunbar was just starting to find a groove within the Cowboys' offense at the time of his injury.
In the Raiders' game, Dunbar rushed for 82 yards on just 12 carries, which included a career-long 45-yard run. He also caught a 12-yard pass, but he suffered an injury in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' loss that cost him the rest of the season.
Dunbar is the No. 2 back behind DeMarco Murray heading into the 2014 season, and that's nothing against Joseph Randle, who was drafted to eventually become Murray's replacement. Dunbar is the speed back the Cowboys need in this offense.
However, there were too many stretches of games where Dunbar was a non-factor in the offense. Team officials said Dunbar's lack of blocking abilities on the pass rush kept him off the field at times. Dunbar is 5-8 and 188 pounds, and it makes it difficult for him to tie up on coming defenders who are bigger than him.
Yet, Dunbar's impact on the game should be greater in 2014. New playcaller Scott Linehan can use Dunbar with quick passes out of the backfield, like he did with Steven Jackson during all those years in St. Louis and even last season with Reggie Bush in Detroit.
Murray is a solid back who probably doesn't get enough credit for how strong of a 2013 season he had, one that resulted in a Pro Bowl berth. Dunbar can also have a positive influence on the game if he's used the right way.
So when the Cowboys see Dunbar running sprints at Valley Ranch this week, just know, a few offensive coaches are pretty happy.