NFL Nation: phillip tanner

IRVING, Texas -- In many ways a successful draft is measured by how well a team does in the later rounds.

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe put together a story about teams that draft well and poorly with an interesting graphic.

The Dallas Cowboys are one of six teams not to have a current starter they selected in Rounds 5-7, according to the chart, which means Volin did not count Orlando Scandrick (fifth round, 2008) as a starter even though he started most of the 2013 season. If Morris Claiborne performed up to capabilities and was not hurt, he would have been the starter. If you count Scandrick, then the Cowboys would be one of 12 teams to have one starter from Rounds 5-7.

The other five without a starter were the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have had 12 picks in Rounds 5-7 and only Dwayne Harris, James Hanna, Joseph Randle and DeVonte Holloman remain.

Hitting on late-round picks is guesswork in a lot of ways. In 2004, the Cowboys hit on three seventh-rounders in Nate Jones, Patrick Crayton and Jacques Reeves. They all had productive NFL careers and earned second contracts.

That’s the goal: find players who can fill roles. The Cowboys kept Crayton for a second contract, but Jones and Reeves left after their rookie deals expired.

Teams build their depth through late-round picks and the Cowboys have not hit enough in the late rounds to fortify their depth. The Seattle Seahawks had an NFL-best five starters from Rounds 5-7 in 2013. The Philadelphia Eagles were next with four.

Also in Volin’s chart is a look at undrafted starters. The Cowboys had a league-high five in 2013 with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Barry Church, Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath. The Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins had four apiece to tie for second.

For years the Cowboys have excelled in finding undrafted free agents. In the last three years they have landed Dan Bailey, Phillip Tanner, Chris Jones, Ben Bass, Cole Beasley, Leary, Heath and Cam Lawrence.

They make up for the misses in Rounds 5-7 with hits in undrafted free agency. With three compensatory picks in the seventh round this year, the Cowboys will have the chance to draft what would have been their priority undrafted free agents.

They only hope they’re not just making up for misses in Rounds 5-7.

Cowboys free agents: Phillip Tanner

February, 24, 2014
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Phillip Tanner
Position: Running back
Free-agent type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $555,000

Summary: Tanner had nine carries for 12 yards and a touchdown in 2013 on offense and made nine tackles on special teams in 16 games.

Why keep him: He is everything Jason Garrett wants in a teammate. He is tough, dependable and trustworthy. He will do whatever it takes for the team to win. He is an excellent practice player. He knows the offense and can contribute on every special teams’ unit. He can be a useful short-yardage back.

Why let him go: There comes a time where the cost of a player outweighs his usefulness on the roster because of price. Tanner was set to make $1.389 million as a restricted free agent, but a source said the Cowboys will not tender him an offer, making him an unrestricted free agent With DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, who is entering his second year, there just isn’t enough snaps for him on offense.

Best guess: Danny McCray was a restricted free agent last year and the Cowboys chose not to tender him an offer, giving him a $100,000 signing bonus and $630,000 base salary instead. And he was their best special teamer. The Cowboys could choose to do the same with Tanner this year, minus the signing bonus. In this scenario his base salary would be a non-guaranteed $645,000.

DeMarco Murray's role to expand

December, 3, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Lance Dunbar had surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. Now the Dallas Cowboys have to figure out how to replace him.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray, Tony Romo
AP Photo/Tim SharpCoach Jason Garrett has high hopes that DeMarco Murray can continue to carry the Cowboys out of the backfield.
"DeMarco Murray is our lead back, has been our lead back all year long, has done an excellent job for us, did a really good job in the game the other day again," coach Jason Garrett said. "He'll be the lead dog. The other guys, Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner will have to step up if they have an opportunity if DeMarco can't go."

The "if they have an opportunity," comment stuck. The Cowboys plan to ride Murray as much as they can, despite the belief that the NFL is a two-back league nowadays for guys not named Adrian Peterson. And it's not as if Dunbar morphed into an irreplaceable part on the Cowboys' offense.

Before carrying the ball 12 times for 82 yards against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving, he had 18 carries for 68 yards for the season.

With Dunbar out earlier in the year with hamstring injuries and Murray slowed with a knee injury, Joseph Randle got his first action. He had all 45 of his carries for 111 yards and a touchdown in a four-game stretch, but has not had a carry in the past three games. Tanner has not had a carry in the past four games.

"We'd like to get the other backs in, give them a role, give a chance to give DeMarco rest, play a series, whatever that is," Garrett said. "We'll come up with what those substitution patterns are as the week goes on. We certainly feel confident in putting those other guys in the game though."

They might, but the proof will be on the field.

In his last three games, Murray has 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns (three came on Thanksgiving against the Raiders). He has eight catches for 79 yards in the last two games.

"If you look at the last couple of weeks, both in the Giant game and also in the Oakland game, he's one of those guys who makes a lot of dirty runs," Garrett said. "There were a number of runs in that game the other day where I'm standing there on the sideline saying, 'Boy, it's going to be second-and-10 here, he's not making much,' and somehow he kind of works his way through the hole and makes eight and it's second-and-2. I think that happened a lot. It happened in the red zone a couple of times in the game. Those were well-blocked plays but he found the holes and got himself into the end zone. I just think he's been a very productive back for us. He always has been and I think the thing where he's taken a major step is as a receiver. We felt really good about his receiving ability coming out of school. He was very productive in that regard and just his production, every week you throw it to him three times and he catches it three times for 38 yards. You throw it to him five times and he catches it five times for 42 yards. Sometimes those become those non-descript plays that nobody ever talks about, but they really make an offense go. When we throw him the ball or hand him the ball, usually good things happen. He's been a real good back for us."

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

October, 20, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys17-3 win against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday:

What it means: With back-to-back wins for the first time this season, the 4-3 Cowboys have taken control of the NFC East. They are 3-0 in the division for the first time since 2007 and just the seventh time in franchise history. They also won on the road for the first time this season after losses to Kansas City and San Diego. After allowing 1,456 yards in their last three games entering Sunday, the Cowboys kept the up-tempo Eagles in check (278 yards) and came up with three fourth-quarter interceptions of Matt Barkley -- by Sean Lee, Barry Church and Brandon Carr. An interception of Nick Foles was negated by a replay review. The third-down defense was particularly strong, holding Philadelphia to just four conversions in 18 tries.

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Stock watch: Rising -- Monte Kiffin. The defensive coordinator was falling two weeks ago when his defense allowed 51 points to Denver. When he was at USC and faced Chip Kelly's offense at Oregon, Kiffin’s defense allowed 50 points and 601 yards per game. The Eagles had scored 30 or more points in four of their first six games, but managed only a field goal thanks to strong man-to-man coverage from the Dallas cornerbacks.

Tony Romo at 100: The quarterback was starting his 100th regular-season game for the Cowboys and improved to 59-41 as a starter. It wasn’t a vintage Romo performance. He had his first multi-interception game of the season, even if the first pick was on an end-of-half Hail Mary. But when the offense needed him most, Romo came through. On Dallas' fourth-quarter touchdown drive, he completed 7 of 8 passes for 69 yards, capped by the clinching touchdown throw to Terrance Williams.

Big names missing: For the first time in his nine-year career, defensive end DeMarcus Ware missed a game. Ware did not play because of a quadriceps strain and was replaced in the starting lineup by Kyle Wilber. The Cowboys still managed decent pressure on Foles (three sacks). The Cowboys were also without DeMarco Murray (knee). It was the 10th game Murray has missed in three seasons. His replacement, Joseph Randle, ran for 65 yards, and Phillip Tanner added a touchdown run, giving the Cowboys a rushing score in their third straight game.

What’s next: The Cowboys remain on the road with a trip to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions next Sunday. While not as important as a division game, it could come into play later in the season in a possible wild-card race. The Cowboys won 28-27 in their last visit to Ford Field on Dec. 9, 2007.

Welcome to Lincoln Financial Field

October, 20, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- Welcome to Lincoln Financial Field where the Dallas Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the NFC East had a team that was only one game over .500 hold sole possession of first place this late in the season was in 2001 when the Eagles were 4-3. They went on to win the division that year with an 11-5 record.

Slow-down the Eagles: Monte Kiffin’s struggles against Chip Kelly while the two were in the college game have been well-documented.

What’s more relevant is how Kiffin’s Dallas defense is struggling against any offense right now. In the last three games, the Cowboys have given up 1,456 yards. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos shredded the Cowboys through the air, and the Washington Redskins did it on the ground.

The third-down defense has been particularly bad, allowing 22 first downs on 41 tries in the last three games.

The key will be red-zone defense. The Cowboys can give up the yards and even field goals, but they need to make stops deep in their own territory. It’s what they did last week against Washington, stopping them on three red-zone trips.

Randle
And they will have to do it without DeMarcus Ware, who has a quadriceps strain.

New-look run game: Rookie Joseph Randle will take over as the lead running back with DeMarco Murray out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

“I think whenever you lose a valuable player, like Murray, that obviously affects the team,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “At the same time, I think Randle will step in and do a good job. (Phillip) Tanner has shown us what he can do, so he’ll do a good job as well. We’re excited to see those guys.”

But how much?

The Eagles are allowing the most yards per game (420.2) and 29.8 points per game, which is 29th in the NFL.

Bryant
Bryant
In the last two games the Cowboys have been effective with their empty package, spreading the field. The Eagles have allowed 13 touchdown passes, but they have picked off six passes and sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times.

Knowing Dez: The division games have not been kind to Dez Bryant so far. In wins against the New York Giants and Redskins, he has nine catches for 58 yards.

In the four non-division games, Bryant has averaged 6.3 catches for 100 yards and has all six of his touchdowns.

The Eagles have a new defensive staff with new cornerbacks. Perhaps that makes this closer to a non-division game.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dreadful. Just dreadful. The Dallas Cowboys (1-2) completed the West Coast portion of training camp with a 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) on Saturday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Cowboys' first-team offense was able to move the ball but failed to score, in large part because of turnovers that gave the Cardinals prime field position.

Here are some thoughts on the Cowboys' loss:

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: The Cowboys committed six turnovers against Arizona. Kyle Orton threw two interceptions, both on bad throws. Lance Dunbar and Dez Bryant fumbled after long receptions, and for the second consecutive week, the Cowboys' special-teams unit muffed a punt. This time, it was Dwayne Harris losing a fumble. Alex Tanney also threw a late pick. But Arizona managed only 12 points (four field goals on five tries).

First-team offense shut out: Tony Romo completed 7 of 10 passes for 142 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions during three drives. Romo looked in tune once again with Bryant, who caught four passes for 74 yards. But the Cowboys' two best plays led to turnovers. Romo connected with Dunbar on a catch-and-run, but the running back fumbled while being tackled after a 43-yard gain. The play would have given the Cowboys the ball at the Arizona 7. Bryant fumbled on the next possession after making a catch in the middle of the field. He was stripped by cornerback Jerraud Powers while being pulled down, giving the Cardinals the ball at their own 24.

Arkin starts at left guard: With Ronald Leary out while recovering from right knee surgery, David Arkin got the start and played a little more than three quarters. Arkin did a nice job as a run- and pass-blocker. There did, however, seem to be confusion on a pass play when Arizona's defensive linemen used a stunt against Arkin that resulted in a sack.

Tanney leads scoring drive: After not scoring for three quarters, Tanney connected with Gavin Escobar on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 10:55 to play in the fourth quarter to bring the Cowboys to within 9-7. The score ended a 16-play, 89-yard drive that lasted just under 10 minutes. Tanney had two chances to give his team the lead in the final five minutes, but one drive ended with a punt and the other on an interception. Tanney finished 14-of-19 for 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Surprise decisions: Jermey Parnell, who returned to practice late last week from a strained hamstring, was a healthy scratch. Demetress Bell was the right tackle with the second team in the second half. Darrion Weems was the left tackle. The Cowboys might have played Bell just to get a good look at him against another opponent. He was signed after camp started but failed the conditioning test. Coach Jason Garrett said Bell needed to get in shape. Phillip Tanner, who was getting snaps behind starter DeMarco Murray and Dunbar at running back, didn't get any snaps Saturday. Instead, rookie Joseph Randle was the running back with the third team. Tanney took all the snaps after Romo and Orton were done for the day. The Cowboys didn't give Nick Stephens any snaps in the second half. It's doubtful if the Cowboys go with three quarterbacks, but Tanney played better than Orton.

What's next? The Cowboys finally come home after a month on the West Coast. They will be off Sunday and resume practices at 8 a.m. Monday in Irving.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys' first-team offense produced just three points in Friday night's 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum.

The Cowboys defense set up the offense by forcing a turnover, but penalties, a hold on Jason Witten, a deflection on a screen pass and a sack forced the Cowboys into long down and distance. Quarterback Tony Romo completed an 11-yard pass to Miles Austin that set up a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Ben Margot"It was good," Tony Romo said of the Cowboys' first-team offense. "We did what we've been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well."
Romo said he was hoping for another chance, and he got one, producing a drive that got to the Raiders' 19-yard line. But DeMarco Murray came up a yard short of the first-down marker on third down to force a field goal try that was blocked.

Romo finished 6-of-8 passing for 88 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was sacked once but felt the line, in general, gave him solid protection. He got great protection on the sack, but he missed a wide-open Austin in the back of the end zone.

"It was good," Romo said of the first-team offense. "We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what. So we have to avoid that [and] stress that this week, and we’re going to make sure that stops."

Coach Jason Garrett was happy with Romo's play but noted that the run game wasn't as effective as in the first preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys ran for 70 yards on 20 carries with Phillip Tanner's 25 yards on seven carries leading the way.

"I thought Tony got into a little bit of a groove with that second drive throwing the ball to Dez [Bryant]," Garrett said. "And I thought Miles did some good things. I thought we protected well. We didn’t run the ball quite as well as we did last week. We seemed to throw the ball a little bit better."

The Cowboys have stressed that they will use more two-tight end sets this season, but they didn't use one Friday until their ninth offensive play. Instead, the Cowboys employed more three-receiver sets on their first two possessions with the first team.

The first touchdown of the game came from the second unit as backup quarterback Kyle Orton connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley.

It was progress, but the Cowboys know they have work to do.

"We got to work on a bunch of things," said Austin, who caught two passes for 22 yards. "That's what we're going to do."
CANTON, Ohio -- DeVonte Holloman will always have the Hall of Fame Game.

The rookie linebacker came up with the play of the day with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown after grabbing a tipped pass and sprinting to the end zone to give the Cowboys a 17-0 lead with 6:35 left in the first half.

“I thought about it the whole way here, and it actually happened,” Holloman said of his pick-six. “I had a celebration in my mind and I was kind of overwhelmed so I decided to celebrate with my teammates instead.”

Holloman’s interception was one of two takeaways by the Cowboys' defense against the Dolphins. On Miami’s first play from scrimmage, the exchange between quarterback and running back was muffed and Nick Hayden came up with the ball.

Four plays later, the Cowboys had a 7-0 lead after a Phillip Tanner touchdown.

“The correlation between taking the ball away and scoring points in this league is huge,” coach Jason Garrett said. “When we’ve played our best around here it’s been when we’ve been taking the ball away and protecting it.”

Holloman hopes it is not his last takeaway. He might get to show off the celebration.

So what was it anyway?

“I might save it for later,” he said, “so I can’t spoil it.”

Run-happy Cowboys pound away

August, 5, 2013
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CANTON, Ohio -- At the opening training camp news conference, coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys need to run the ball more and need to run the ball better in 2013.

In Sunday’s 24-20 win against Miami, the Cowboys got the more (34 carries) and the better (170 yards).

Joseph Randle led the Cowboys with 70 yards on 13 carries. Phillip Tanner had 59 yards on 10 carries, including a touchdown. Lance Dunbar had 22 yards on four carries to start the game. Kendial Lawrence had a 5-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

“I thought it was a good start running the football,” Garrett said. “We ran it well. We ran it a few different ways. We ran it inside. We ran on the edge. I thought the backs ran hard.”

The Cowboys had only one game last season with more than 34 carries (42 at Baltimore). They had five games with 17 or fewer runs last season. They ran it 17 times in the first half Sunday.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Tanner said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ll go watch the film, capsulize what we did well, and look at what we did wrong and fix that. But this felt like a solid foundation.”



CANTON, Ohio -- The Dallas Cowboys opened their preseason with a 24-20 win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game thanks to a stingy defense and a solid running game, which was something they did not really have last season.

The Cowboys have now won their preseason opener four straight years. What does that mean? Not much, since they have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

What it means: With a new playcaller on offense in Bill Callahan and a new defense led by Monte Kiffin, getting off to a good start is a positive. The only starters that played were tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free, center Travis Frederick and linebacker Justin Durant. Free and Smith played a series. Frederick moved over to guard in the second quarter and for some of the third. Durant played a handful of series. While it’s still a question, the Cowboys found some answers for depth in guys like George Selvie, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle.

DeVonte Holloman with a pick-six: The rookie linebacker had the most athletic play of the night when he reached back to snag a Matt Moore throw intended for Chad Bumphis. Holloman was able to compose himself and then sprint 75 yards for the touchdown, slamming Moore to the turf with a facemask. Last season, the Cowboys forced turnovers at an alarmingly infrequent rate, which led to Rob Ryan’s firing and Kiffin’s arrival. On the first series, Nick Hayden came up with a fumble recovery that set up Tanner’s touchdown run. In the second half, the defense forced two fourth-down stops.

There’s a running game: One of the biggest complaints about Jason Garrett was his willingness to abandon the run. Callahan’s background as an offensive coordinator has many believing the Cowboys will have more balance. In the first half, the Cowboys’ three runners -- Tanner, Randle and Lance Dunbar -- averaged more than five yards per carry. In the second half, Randle did a nice job of picking up yards on his own. The Dolphins weren’t playing many of their regulars, but the fact that the Cowboys ran it 17 times for 97 yards in the first two quarters was a good sign. Last season, the Cowboys had four games in which they had fewer than 17 carries. Even undrafted rookie Kendial Lawrence got into the act with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:57 to play in the game.

Injury concerns: Safety Matt Johnson was off to a good start by starting the game, but he was hurt tracking down Bumphis on a 45-yard catch and run. He suffered a left ankle sprain and did not return. Defensive end Ben Bass hurt his left knee and did not return to the game but appeared to be fine on the sideline. He did not go to the locker room for X-rays, and he did not receive extra attention from the athletic training staff. Tanner hurt his left arm in the first quarter but was able to return to the game.

What’s next: The Cowboys play at Oakland on Friday in preseason game No. 2, and the starters will see some playing time against the Raiders.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC East team look at running back, and what still needs to be done?

Dallas Cowboys

After a season in which they ranked third in the league in passing yards and 31st in rushing yards, the Cowboys seek greater balance in their offense. Any balance, actually. The starting running back remains DeMarco Murray, whose toughness and physical style give the Cowboys an extra dimension when he's on the field. Murray's problem is staying on the field, as he's had to miss nine games over his first two NFL seasons due to injury. The team let Felix Jones leave as a free agent and drafted Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle in the fifth round. It's no coincidence that Randle is a back who didn't miss a single game in his college career. The Cowboys needed someone durable and reliable to back up Murray, who's already struggling with hamstring problems this offseason, and neither Lance Dunbar nor Phillip Tanner showed enough in limited work last year to prove he was the backup they needed. What the Cowboys need at running back is to get and keep Murray as healthy as possible and to get Randle up to speed so he's ready to step in when he's inevitably needed as the fill-in starter.

New York Giants

The Giants let starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw depart via free agency, a difficult choice necessitated by salary and health concerns. That likely leaves the running game in the hands of 2012 first-round draft pick David Wilson, who opened eyes as a big-play threat and a kick returner in his rookie season, and Andre Brown, who functioned as a reliable goal-line back before an injury ended his season. Either should be able to handle full-time starter duties, and it's likely the team will split carries somewhat between them anyway. What the Giants need to do is establish whether Wilson and/or Brown can handle the pass-blocking duties at which Bradshaw excelled for so long. If one of them demonstrates superior performance in blitz pickup, that's likely to give him the edge for playing time over the other. With fullback Henry Hynoski out now with a knee injury, and with excellent run-blocking tight end Martellus Bennett now a Chicago Bear, the Giants remain on the lookout for reliable blocking backs. The recent injury to Tim Hightower shows that, and it remains to be seen whether Ryan Torain, Da'Rel Scott or seventh-round draft pick Michael Cox can be part of the solution.

Philadelphia Eagles

Every prediction about Chip Kelly's offense claims certainty that the Eagles will use the run game and the screen game more this year than they did in the past. LeSean McCoy remains the starter, and one of the best running backs in the league when healthy. Bryce Brown showed when McCoy got injured last year that he could handle starter's responsibilities brilliantly, but his fumble problems obviously must be overcome if he's to be trusted with significant carries. The Eagles signed Cowboys castoff Felix Jones for depth, and they still have Chris Polk, so the candidates for carries are plentiful this offseason. What remains for the Eagles is to establish the manner in which they'll distribute those carries (and catches) among their backs in an offense that will try to run as many plays as possible every game.

Washington Redskins

Sixth-round pick Alfred Morris came from the back of the depth chart last offseason to overtake Hightower, Roy Helu and Evan Royster to claim the starting running back job, and he quite literally ran with it. A perfect fit in Mike Shanahan's one-cut zone-blocking run schemes, Morris finished second in the NFL with 1,613 rushing yards as a rookie and delivered a 200-yard, three-touchdown masterpiece in the regular-season finale/division-title game against the Cowboys. Shanahan does love to play the volume game at running back, and he still has Helu and Royster as well as late-round 2013 draft picks Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison. What remains for the Redskins is to figure out the pecking order behind Morris and work to find ways to use the talent they have at running back to ease some of the physical pressure on quarterback Robert Griffin III. It's also important to note that Washington was able to re-sign fullback Darrel Young, a key figure in a run game that led the league with 169.3 yards per game in 2012.

Looking at running back scenarios

March, 5, 2013
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After reading this from Calvin over the weekend about whether the Cowboys would pursue Michael Turner, and then this Monday from Mike Jones about the Redskins' running back depth chart, I thought to myself, "That's a good idea. Let's do a post on the NFC East running back situations." So, let's.

Dallas Cowboys

Assuming they move on from Felix Jones, the Cowboys will be in the market for a running back who can spell starter DeMarco Murray and, if need be, replace him when he gets injured. Unlike Calvin, I actually think someone like Turner or former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw would work here. They need someone who's used to carrying the load, since it doesn't appear as though they can count on Murray lasting a whole season. And even if he did, they'd need someone who can replace him for long stretches during the game in order to help keep him healthy. I understand the temptation for a speed back as a change of pace, but Jones was supposed to be that and it didn't work. Why not a veteran grinder who runs with power and is used to playing in a passing offense? Someone like Phillip Tanner or Lance Dunbar could develop into what they need behind Murray, but it's not a bad idea to bring in someone with experience just in case they don't.

New York Giants

After cutting Bradshaw, the Giants appear set to go with second-year man David Wilson as the lead back and, assuming they re-sign him, Andre Brown as the goal-line guy. Maybe Brown's duties increase over what they were last year behind Bradshaw. And maybe Wilson isn't (a) ready or (b) the right kind of back to handle the running and pass-protection responsibilities in the Giants' offense. They ended the season with guys like Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin on the roster for depth, and they could go back to one or both of them. I imagine they'll give Wilson the shot at the lead-back role, but they'll want to be protected in case he can't handle it. So don't be surprised if they bring a few backs to camp that you've heard of.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles look pretty well set with LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown as electric playmakers in the backfield. They also still have Dion Lewis and Chris Polk kicking around for depth. I don't see this as a need area for the Eagles this offseason.

Washington Redskins

As Mike points out in that link up there, it appears the Redskins would like to find someone who can fill in for workhorse starter Alfred Morris on third downs. That could certainly be Roy Helu if he could manage to stay healthy, but to this point he has not done that, and Mike Shanahan will surely want to bring four or more backs to camp for depth and competition purposes. As great as Morris' rookie season was -- and it was fantastic -- this is a position at which Shanahan has a well-known history of trying to stay ahead of the curve. If the Redskins' running game hierarchy is altered in 2013 from what it was in its very successful 2012, it would not be a surprise.

DeMarco Murray's status still a mystery

November, 23, 2012
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Among other things he discussed in the wake of Thursday's disappointing Thanksgiving Day loss, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he didn't know when or if injured running back DeMarco Murray might be able to return to action. Murray has missed six straight games since spraining his foot in Week 6 in Baltimore, and the Dallas running game has struggled for consistency in his absence. Jones said he can't be sure Murray will be ready for next Sunday's game against the Eagles.
"We can't get a prognosis that another week's rest will do anything"” Jones said after Thursday's 38-31 loss. "It's all depending on how he pushes off."

Murray
Murray
Murray suffered the injury Oct. 14 at Baltimore and has been on the practice field only three times since, and that was just for rehab. He said prior to the Cleveland game there would be a chance he would see action soon, but didn't.

The hope is that he will return Dec. 2 against Philadelphia, but coach Jason Garrett made reference to Murray’s "slow progress" Wednesday.

One of the stories of this Cowboys season has been the lack of depth on a roster that has a few very talented players, but not enough talent in enough places. Murray is their best running back, but the dropoff from him to Felix Jones, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner has proven to be precipitous. None of the replacements has shown Murray's ability to absorb contact and continue running -- an essential quality for a back that's trying to run behind the Cowboys' struggling offensive line.

It's hard to say for certain that the past six games would have gone better for the Cowboys had Murray been playing. They are 3-3 without him and were 2-3 with him, and this season has offered no evidence that the Cowboys are anything other than a basically .500 team. But Murray's absence is forcing the offense to be more one-dimensional than it would like to be, and there are critical times at which that shows up and hurts them.

NFC East Friday injury rundown

November, 2, 2012
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Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta

Running back DeMarco Murray is officially out for the third game in a row with a sprained foot, while backup running back Felix Jones is listed as probable after missing a good amount of practice time because of a neck injury. Still a chance you could see some Phillip Tanner on Sunday night in Atlanta.

Wide receivers Dez Bryant (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) are listed as questionable. Bryant has not practiced all week.

Linebacker Dan Connor, center Phil Costa and defensive end Sean Lissemore are all out for the game. Newly acquired veteran Ernie Sims replaces Connor at the inside linebacker position that belonged to Sean Lee before his injury.

New York Giants vs. Steelers

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is listed as questionable with a foot injury after missing practice Wednesday and Friday, and practicing on a limited basis Thursday. If he can't go, Andre Brown likely would see a full running back workload in his place.

Linebacker Keith Rivers is doubtful with a calf injury, and starting middle linebacker Chase Blackburn has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Linebacker Jacquian Williams is also out because of a knee injury. Mark Herzlich will get the start at middle linebacker in place of Blackburn, and with safety Kenny Phillips back from his knee injury, the Giants could use more three-safety sets with Phillips, Antrel Rolle and NFC Defensive Player of the Week Stevie Brown.

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans (Mon.)

Safety Nate Allen missed practice Friday with a hamstring injury. If he can't go Monday night, David Sims would replace him. Right guard Danny Watkins and wide receiver/punt returner Mardy Gilyard are the only other Eagles who missed practice. Watkins is likely to miss a second straight game with an ankle injury. Gilyard has been ruled out for the game, meaning Damaris Johnson is likely to be active and serve as the punt returner.

Washington Redskins vs. Panthers

Safety Brandon Meriweather had hoped he might be able to make his Redskins debut this week, but he has once again been ruled out, as has wide receiver Pierre Garcon. The Redskins are off in Week 10 and will reassess the status of both of those players during and after the bye week.

Inside linebacker Perry Riley is questionable with a hamstring injury and would be a tough loss for an already banged-up Redskins defense. He has been one of its best players this year.
Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a hamstring injury and balance problems he's been having. But he returned to practice Friday and it appears his streak of 231 consecutive games played -- the longest among active players -- stands a good chance to continue Sunday. The Redskins officially listed Fletcher as questionable, and coach Mike Shanahan said the decision on whether he'd play would be based on how he feels over the next 48 hours. But they are encouraged.

Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon (foot) and safety Brandon Meriweather (knee) have been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh

In other NFC East injury news ...

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was a limited practice participant Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday because of his foot injury. The Giants are listing him as questionable, and he says he's "good," but we'll know more about his chances when we see whether he makes the flight to Dallas on Saturday.

The Giants list safety Kenny Phillips and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard as doubtful after Phillips practiced on a limited basis this week. I wouldn't expect to see either (hence, "doubtful"), but you never know. Linebacker Jacquian Williams is officially out for the game with a knee injury. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and center David Baas are probable.

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins missed practice with an ankle injury and is doubtful for Sunday's game against the Falcons. Dennis Kelly would play in his place. Eagles coach Andy Reid called Watkins' injury "chronic" and says he's had it for years, which offers further ammunition to those who already questioned the wisdom of using a first-round pick on a 26-year-old Canadian firefighter who plays guard.

All other Eagles practiced in full, though defensive end Phillip Hunt is listed as questionable with a calf injury.

For the Dallas Cowboys, running back DeMarco Murray will miss his second game in a row because of a foot injury, and backup Felix Jones is questionable with a knee injury. The sense is that Jones will play, but how much and how well remains to be seen. Could be a chance for Phillip Tanner to show his stuff.

Center Phil Costa and defensive end Sean Lissemore are listed as out for the game. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware missed the past three days of practice because of an illness, but he's listed as probable and should play.

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