As names roll in, Cowboys sticking with what they have at running back

OXNARD, Calif. -- The names never seem to end. Each day, a new one is added to the list.

Knile Davis, Tre Mason, Ahmad Bradshaw, Pierre Thomas

The fact that the Dallas Cowboys have not added another tailback has confounded some.

How can the Cowboys expect to run the ball as well as they did the previous season -- with DeMarco Murray leading the NFL with 1,845 yards -- without a running back like Murray? This question has been asked since Murray left for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The first solution was supposed to be Adrian Peterson. The machinations of a trade were put in fans' minds, with calls for the reverse of the 1989 Herschel Walker trade that turned the Cowboys into Super Bowl champions in the 1990s.

But the Vikings never intended to trade Peterson, and they eventually gave him more guaranteed money.

The draft looked to be the next best place for the solution, especially with all the running backs available. The Cowboys brought some of the top backs to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon, Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson and Jay Ajayi.

Then seven rounds came and went, and the Cowboys did not take a runner. They saw Gordon with the San Diego Chargers on Thursday and will see Gurley the next two days with the St. Louis Rams.

Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller, Christine Michael, Khiry Robinson

Undrafted rookie Gus Johnson became a quick flavor. His opportunity came when Darren McFadden couldn't practice at the start of camp because of a hamstring strain. Lance Dunbar missed six practices because of a sprained ankle. An oblique strain kept Joseph Randle out of the first preaseason game.

Johnson, who did not technically sign with the Cowboys until they were about to board the plane for Oxnard, started against the Chargers and scored the Cowboys' only touchdown. But he finished with just 35 yards on 13 carries. Not to mention, he was unable to finish the game because of a slightly separated shoulder and will be kept out of contact most of the week.

Those injuries called for more names.

Ben Tate, Felix Jones, Gio Bernard, Bryce Brown

The Cowboys' answer was to sign Ben Malena and Michael Hill.

The running back competition predicted at the start of camp will take a little more time to get going.

McFadden made his camp debut Saturday but will be worked into practice slowly. Dunbar also returned Saturday, but he will be worked in smartly too. Dunbar took the team drills Saturday and showed no signs of worry with the oblique strain.

Running backs coach Gary Brown predicted "hellified running" with his top guys available.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're right on schedule, as far as having a back or backs ready to go for the New York Giants," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I'm not in any way anxious. When we practice the running game, we practice the physical aspect of it. It takes a lot of players to make the running game work -- not just the back."

Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson

Murray had more yards in seven games the past season than Randle, McFadden and Dunbar had all of the past season combined.

Randle is the leader to be the Cowboys' lead back, but he has had more than 10 carries in a game just three times, and he has not averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry in those contests. McFadden hasn't averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry since 2011. Dunbar has 80 carries in his first three years.

The runners are not unaware of the outside noise.

"Outside of what goes on in our room, I don't pay attention to it," McFadden said. "I worry about what I can worry about and control what I can control. And everything else, I just have to roll with it. That comes along with social media and different things that go on ... It seems like everybody is a coach or a GM in some kind of way. It's something I don't pay attention to."

Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar

The Cowboys have consistently said personnel acquisition never ends. They will have scouts at all the preseason games. They will watch games on film and study free-agent and draft notes.

The names will continue to roll in, and that might not stop even when the regular season begins.

For now, the Cowboys are going with what they've got.

"We've had months and months and months to evaluate these guys or the prospects of playing with them," Jones said, "so you can't get nervous now."