At running back, ideal is not real

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are headed into another season using a backfield-by-committee approach with Marion Barber and Felix Jones seemingly as the lead horses and Tashard Choice as the third-down and specialty back.

"The most important thing is you explain to them early on at the beginning of the season, this is what your role is, this is how we’re going to do it to be successful," running backs coach Skip Peete said. "And if they all buy in, which they have, and do their role, we will be successful. Now, roles can change due to injury. Your role may be expanded, but that guy comes back, your role may diminish again, but you got to understand that."

But, is a three-back system really ideal for an NFL offense?

"When you look at the way the trend in the league was going, people are utilizing more guys, becoming more of a role-type backfield where certain guys playing on first and second down, certain guys playing on third down, some guys are strictly situational or specialty-type plays to where that’s been successful for a lot of people," Peete said. "Probably in the ideal, perfect world, if you had one guy that could totally do it all like that, that’d probably be the best situation. Perfect world, yeah, you’d have one back. But I think the physicality of the game, the way it’s become, guys get wore down."

Barber did last season, but he still managed to rush for 932 yards and a 4.4-yard-per-carry average. Jones gained 685 yards, giving the Cowboys' third-ranked rushing attack 1,617 yards and 10 touchdowns on a combined 330 carries from their top two ball carriers.

"I want to say we were pretty good as far as average per running the ball, I want to say we were in the top 10 [finished seventh], which isn’t bad utilizing three guys," Peete said. "The thing I think a lot of people lose is, OK, you’re going to use more than one guy. One guy, say Adrian Peterson, ran for 1,800 [actually 1,383 and 18 touchdowns on 314 carries], but how many carries did he have that on? We utilized two guys maybe to run the same amount of carries, but what did he get? And that’s the way I look at it."