IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar was just starting to find a groove when his 2013 season came to a halt. He suffered a left knee injury against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving Day.
The good news for Dunbar was that of all the ligaments he could have damaged in his knee, the smallest one got nicked up. Dunbar suffered a small lateral capsule tear against the Raiders.
"It was very scary, I didn’t know what to expect from it," said Dunbar, the Cowboys' third-down back who rushed for 150 yards on 30 carries last year. "I kept my head up, I couldn’t pout about it. I had to work to get it back as stronger as it can be."
Dunbar is running full speed now and is hearing praises from new offensive play caller Scott Linehan about how he's going to be used.
In nine games last season, Dunbar touched the ball 37 times, producing zero touchdowns. However, his speed gives the Cowboys a polar opposite to what starter DeMarco Murray is. Murray is quick, not fast, displays good vision when he runs and is a physical runner.
Dunbar is fast with elusive moves.
It's these skills that Liehan likes and hopes to take advantage of in 2014.
"I think the guy’s got a real versatile role package for us," Linehan said. "He can run it. He can catch it. He has the ability to light it up and in a lot of locations and that’s what you want to do with those guys. The one thing I’ve noticed is his ability as a runner when we run the football with him and he’s lined up there. When he gets his reps, see him making very good cuts and looks like he’s got a great ability to accelerate and get through that hole. So it’ll be fun watching this kid play next year."
The Cowboys hoped to get Dunbar the ball more last season when Bill Callahan was the play caller. Injuries, Dunbar missed the season opener with a foot injury and two more games with a pulled hamstring, before getting lost for the season against the Raiders, curtailed the number of touches.
This season, at least the Cowboys' coaches are saying, things will be different.
"It's always nice to hear that, but things can change," Dunbar said. "I don’t want to get my hopes up, I just do my best so I can gain confidence."