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Monday, May 19, 2014
Why signing Ryan Williams matters

By Calvin Watkins

The Cowboys signed former second-round pick Ryan Williams over the weekend to beef up the running back position.

Some view Williams as a possible eventual replacement for DeMarco Murray, who's entering the final year of his contract, but it's more about what Joseph Randle isn't right now.

Randle was a fifth-round pick last year, selected to become Murray's backup and future replacement. Randle struggled with pass protection and didn't emerge as the alternative to Murray during a two-game stretch in late October.

Ryan Williams
Ryan Williams gives the Cowboys another option in case DeMarco Murray can't stay healthy.
With Murray out due to a knee injury in Weeks 7 and 8, Randle had his opportunity to either take over the position or give the Cowboys hope that they could move on without Murray. Randle rushed for 91 yards in two games with no touchdowns. He averaged just 1.9 yards per carry in a loss at Detroit.

When Murray returned, he reminded everyone why he shouldn't be viewed as a short-term solution as the starter. He finished with 1,121 yards with nine touchdowns, which earned him a Pro Bowl berth.

Murray isn't a fast runner. He takes measured steps and is quick when running between the tackles. There were times he was criticized for avoiding contact, but he is a physical runner.

If anything, the Cowboys have a solid starting running back, who is only 26 and could be locked up for at least another season if the team places a contract tender on him because he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

So with Murray in place at least for two more seasons, Randle's lack of progress in his rookie season takes center stage.

Coach Jason Garrett always talks about creating competition at most, if not all, positions and signing Williams, whom Garrett said was impressive during his workout, does that.

Randle reminds you of Murray a little bit, but why do you need two of the same guy?

Lance Dunbar is the speed back the Cowboys need as the change of pace, but what the Cowboys need is a solid backup to produce in case Murray gets injured. He's never played all 16 games in a season.

So whoever backs up Murray will be a vital. Dunbar is the third-down back and not viewed as an every-down player. Randle -- and quite possibly Williams -- is.

Williams has played in just five NFL games due to injuries. If he can maintain his health, he might push Randle down the depth chart.

Garrett said he would like to have a fullback so when the 53-man roster is established, the team could have four running backs and a fullback on it. Special teams is a factor too for the fourth running back and Randle was credited with four special-teams tackles last season.

Could Williams make the team by playing well on special teams?

Possibly, however, it's hard to believe the Cowboys will give up on Randle so quickly.

Signing Williams should create some interesting moments in training camp this summer.