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Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Filling out Cowboys' roster: Running backs

By Todd Archer

Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Dallas Cowboys' roster.

Running backs

On the roster: DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams, Ben Malena, Tyler Clutts, J.C. Copeland

Locks: Murray, Dunbar

Virtual lock: Randle, Clutts

Need help: Williams, Malena, Copeland

How many fit? The Cowboys had four running backs on the roster with either four tailbacks or three tailbacks and a fullback. That seems to be the right number in putting together the 53-man roster this year, but the breakdown could be different.

Murray, who is coming off his first 1,000-yard season, and Dunbar are locks. Randle has the inside track for the No. 3 job and would likely take over the every-down role if something were to happen to Murray. He will be pushed by Williams, who is a former second-round pick. He was unable to stay healthy in his time with the Arizona Cardinals but he has natural ability that could push him by Randle, a fifth-round pick last year.

Malena is an interesting prospect. He showed speed, quickness and smarts in the spring, and his ability to play special teams could enhance his chances. Of the other tailbacks only Dunbar has real special teams' experience.

There is a question as to whether the Cowboys will keep even one fullback. Could they go heavy and carry four tight ends, like they did for a spell last season? If they do, that fourth tight end isn't on the roster at the moment. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup. Copeland, who signed as an undrafted free agent, needs to get in better shape.

Evaluating fullbacks in the spring is difficult because they are not in pads. They are paid to move people and you can't really move people in the organized team activities and minicamp. Clutts has the edge over Copeland, and he could also play some special teams.

Could the Cowboys keep only three tailbacks? Sure, but then they would have to put one on the practice squad, which could be a spot for Malena.