Running back Lance Dunbar shows versatility for Cowboys

With 21 catches for 215 yards, Lance Dunbar has almost matched his reception numbers from last season. Tim Heitman/Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It has taken the Cowboys four seasons, but they’ve finally figured out how to maximize running back Lance Dunbar’s skill set.

Dunbar, who usually plays on third downs and in the Cowboys’ two-minute offense, caught 10 passes for 100 yards in the Cowboys’ 39-28 loss to Atlanta.

He’s caught 21 passes for 215 yards in three games; he caught 18 passes for 217 yards all of last season. Entering this season, he had just 31 catches in his career.

What makes Dunbar valuable is he can turn short passes into long gains because he’s so elusive when he gets the ball in space, especially against linebackers.

He had gains of 15, 13, 22 and 17 yards against Atlanta. He also had gains of 24, 16 and 39 in the first two games.

He can line up in the backfield, or the Cowboys can line him up wide and throw deep if he’s covered by a linebacker, as they did for a 39-yard gain against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Dunbar’s effectiveness played a big role in the Cowboys’ 28-point first half Sunday. He caught four passes for 59 yards before intermission.

“It’s fun to be a bigger part of the offense,” Dunbar said, “but I’m all about winning. The stats don’t mean much when you don’t win.”

Dunbar has proved he’s capable of making big plays. When Tony Romo and Dez Bryant return to the lineup, he’s still going to be a big part of the Cowboys offense.