Phillip Tanner didn't play a down on offense Saturday against the Cardinals. That's not a good sign for a running back fourth on the depth chart. But Lance Dunbar's foot injury, which is expected to keep him through at least the opener, has opened the door for Tanner.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked whether Tanner's lack of playing time on offense was a front-office decision or a coaching decision.
"Yeah, collective decision," Garrett said. "We wanted to see Joseph Randle. We wanted to hand Joseph Randle the ball and see what he was doing. Phillip has done a real nice job for us, both on offense and on teams. We’ve seen him for the last couple, three years and we wanted to give the young guy a chance to play. Phillip always responds the right way to stuff, to situations he’s been in. Whether he gets an opportunity or doesn’t get an opportunity, he makes the most out of it. Those are the kinds of guys you want on your team."
Tanner did play eight plays on special teams Saturday, but he had to watch on offense as DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar combined for 14 carries and three catches in the loss to the Cardinals.
"It's always disappointing in not being able to do what you love to do," Tanner said. "It's a coaches' decision. Whatever they need me to do, i'm going to do it and do it well.
"It was kind of the flow of the game. We are a running back by committee. We compete. We go out and have fun. That is what this team is about. Just competing and doing what we can do to help the team be better than 8-8."
Tanner, who lost 10 pounds in the off-season to get to 210, had 17 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown in the first two preseason games. He has 47 carries in the regular season.
After making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Tanner had 22 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown while catching two passes for 19 yards before going on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Last season, he played in 14 games but carried the ball only 25 times for 61 yards with four catches for 41 yards.
-- Charean Williams