Cowboys, Giants have a similar problem

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
11:55
AM ET
So I was sitting here on Redskins playoff detox, catching up on the division's other teams, and I got to reading this Calvin Watkins item on the Dallas Cowboys' running game. And it got me thinking about the New York Giants' running game, which has a similar problem at its core -- namely, a starting running back who can't be relied on to stay healthy.

In discussing the state of the Cowboys' running game, Calvin quotes coach Jason Garrett saying this:
"We have to do a better job running the football, and you’ve heard me say this a lot, that balance is critical," coach Jason Garrett said when the season was over. "You want to be able to attack defenses a lot of different ways. DeMarco Murray was out for a large portion of this season, but having said that, you have to put the next guy in there and you have to be effective running it."

In theory, that makes sense. But if Calvin's point is that many of the teams having success in the playoffs are strong in the running game, I submit that they're strong around a reliable central figure who takes all of the snaps and the hits and keeps on grinding. Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. Ray Rice in Baltimore. Arian Foster in Houston. Denver got lucky, when Willis McGahee went down in the second half, it was able to turn to a former first-round pick in Knowshon Moreno and keep going.

The problem in Dallas is Murray has an injury history that starts in college and has drastically impacted both of his pro seasons. And as a result, the Cowboys don't know for certain that they can count on him going forward. They not only need to improve their depth around him, they need to see if they can find a running back capable of handling a full-time workload in his absence.

There was a similar problem in New York, where the Giants wanted to give Ahmad Bradshaw the chance to be the lead back this past year but he couldn't hold up physically either. Recurring issue with Bradshaw that has the team thinking about moving on and going with 2012 first-round pick David Wilson in a "lead dog" role. Can that work? You hope so, certainly, when you take a guy in the first round. But the Giants don't know. Issues with Wilson include ball security (famously) and pass protection. And it's not necessarily that Wilson can't pass-protect, but rather that Bradshaw's the best in the league at it, so if you're going to switch from Bradshaw to anyone as your "lead dog" your offense will have to adjust somehow.

The Cowboys and Giants both went into this season thinking they had solutions at running back, but they came out of it with questions -- some fresh and some old. Expect both teams to address this position in some meaningful way this offseason.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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