Pondering the 46: Only four running backs?

IRVING, Texas – Are the Dallas Cowboys about to end the luxury of taking four running backs to the game?

As we Ponder the 46 this week, let’s start with the premise that defensive tackle Jason Hatcher plays. The Cowboys will have to cover themselves, however, and make newcomer Everett Dawkins active, which will give them 10 defensive linemen on Sunday.

The other inactives are easy to figure out: Miles Austin, J.J. Wilcox, Morris Claiborne, DeVonte Holloman and Darrion Weems.

That leaves Phillip Tanner in the cross hairs with Joseph Randle working his way into the backup running back mix. Tanner is a core special teams player, but is that enough to bring him to the game? With so many defensive linemen active, that also aces tight end Andre Smith out of the picture as well.

Now, if Hatcher can’t play, then Tanner would appear safe because of his special teams skill. He brings more value to the 46-man roster than Smith, who would be able to help a running game that’s non-existent. Since the Cowboys don’t run the ball, they don’t really need to carry a fourth tight end.

So the inactives will be: Austin, Wilcox, Claiborne, Holloman, Weems, Tanner and Smith.