A year after the worst running game in a 16-game season in team history, Jason Garrett vowed the Cowboys would run the ball more and better this season. They did just that Sunday in the first exhibition game, the first time Bill Callahan has called the plays.
The Cowboys ran the ball 34 times; they threw it 21. Of their 266 total yards, 170 were on the ground.
"We have tried to be a more physical team running the football," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We tried to address a personnel issue we had up front by drafting Travis Frederick. We felt like we got a couple of young lineman coming to make us bigger and stronger up there, to help us run the ball better. I thought tonight was a good start running the football.
"We ran it a few different ways. We ran it inside; we had some edge runs as well. I thought the runners ran hard. I thought Phillip Tanner really ran hard and really took advantage of the opportunity we gave him. So I thought that was a good start in the running game."
With starter DeMarco Murray sitting this one out, along with most of the team's starters, Lance Dunbar, Tanner and Joseph Randle got a chance to compete for the backup job.
Dunbar started, a solid sign that he has been the best back in camp not named Murray. He didn't play long, rushing for 22 yards on four carries on the first series.
He gave way to Tanner, who rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 first-half carries despite a brief trip to the locker room for X-rays on his left arm. It proved to be just a contusion, and he returned.
"It felt good," Tanner said. "We’ve still got a long way to go, but just coming here and playing football again, it's been a long time coming, coming out here and being able to jell with the offensive line, the new staff, things like that. I just come out here to have fun."
Randle, the fifth-round draft pick, rushed for 70 yards on 13 carries, including 48 yards in the third quarter.
"The offensive line did a great job, and I was just out there trying to capitalize on the yards whileI was out there," Randle said.
The Cowboys have little experience behind Murray, who has missed nine games in two seasons. Tanner has only 47 career carries for 137 yards and a touchdown in two seasons. But that is 26 more carries than Dunbar and 47 more than Randle."Oh, man, every rep is important," Tanner said. "No rep is more important than the next. Like coach Garrett says all the time, whether it’s one snap or a hundred snaps, play it like it’s your last and just take advantage of every opportunity."
-- Charean Williams