Wednesday, June 10, 2009

NFLdraftdog Roster Series Part 4 – Running Backs/Tight Ends

NFL Team Column
By Russell Easley
Roster Series Part 4 – Running Backs/Tight Ends

Today we’re closing out the offensive half of our roster series by corralling two of the strongest positions on the offense – running back and tight end.

At the beginning of last season the Boys thought they had a decent running game. After all, they had Marion Barber, he of the run over defenders and inspire his teammates with gritty play fame. Then they discovered they had a special little weapon in the form of Felix Jones, who in just his second game as a Cowboy took a kickoff to the house against the Eagles. At different points of the season both were injured, thus leading the Cowboys to yet another discovery - that Tashard Choice can really carry the rock, even against the best defenses in the league. So we went from having a solid running back to having a three headed attack that people have even thrown a nickname on – Smash, Dash, and Tash. The challenge for Jason Garrett this year is going to be how to properly use these talented backs.

As for tight ends, the Cowboys began the season with arguably the best tight end in football – Jason Witten. Witten had his typical season – 81 receptions, 952 yards, and 4 touchdowns. He did this depite having bruised ribs for part of the season (he mission zero games). Not only that, but they discovered that they have a freakish athlete in Martellus Bennett (Marty B to the fans). And despite the fact that the show “Hard Knocks” portrayed him as somewhat lazy, he certainly came along to show his athletic ability during the regular season.

So here’s the rundown:

RB Marion Barber – Last year the league instituted the so called Marion Barber rule, wherein an offensive player may not “stiff arm” or grab an opposing defenders face mask. Seems to be that this rule has always been in effect. “Then, I’m going to use the elbow,” Barber said, jokingly, before adding, “I didn’t even know. I’m going to have to read up on it. So you can’t stiff arm at all? What about the throat?” My point is that Barber’s mentality is to punish the defense more than the defense punishes Barber, which completely works for me.

RB Felix Jones – I like to gloat just as much as the next guy. So I don’t mind telling you that last year, when some of my fellow Cowboys fans were screaming for a blockbuster draft trade involving Darren McFadden, I looked at McFadden and his Arkansas teammate Jones, and said I would rather have Jones because he can do more for you. While McFadden is a talented workhorse back, Felix Jones has the versatility and the capability to score on any given play, and he certainly looked it last year before being sidelined with an injury.

RB Tashard Choice - After the glitzy pick of Felix Jones in the first round in the 2008 draft, Choice almost seemed like an afterthought. Cowboys fans are sure glad the thought occurred. Injuries would have forced the Cowboys to start some guy named Alonzo Coleman against some of the league’s best defenses. Instead we got Choice and total yardage gains of 166 yards (vs. Pittsburgh), 143 yards (vs. NY Giants), and 115 yards (vs. Baltimore). I’ll take that from a backup any day of the week.

TE Jason Witten – Best tight end in football. Next.

TE Martellus Bennett – If Bennett ever leaves the Cowboys, his type of talent is going to parlay itself into league stardom. He’s the reason you are going to see the Boys go to two tight end sets extremely often this season. You just can’t leave talent like that on the bench.

TE John Phillips – Phillips signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Virginia. He is a high effort, high motor kind of guy. He will give you 110% on every play and he’s a good blocker, That’s a lot of football cliché’s but really what else can you say about a guy who hasn’t played a down yet. He’ll probably make the team in place of veteran Rodney Hannah, who has yet to see the field. Phillips will be a gameday inactive/practice squad type until needed by an injury situation.