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July 29, 2013

Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar looks like backup for now

OXNARD, Calif. — Lance Dunbar was limited to special teams work in the training camp scrimmage for the Dallas Cowboys.

That's good news for the second-year running back. It means he's the backup to DeMarco Murray for now.

The scrimmage Sunday was for reserves only, and the offense consisted mostly of third-team players and below. Since Dunbar didn't take an offensive snap and is usually on the field with backup quarterback Kyle Orton — and sometimes Tony Romo — logic dictates that he's No. 2.

Dunbar isn't using logic these days.

"I don't want to talk too fast, talk ahead right now," said Dunbar, who was an undrafted free agent last year after finishing as the career rushing leader at North Texas. "It is what is it, and we won't know until the regular season. I guess you could say it's looking that way."

The 5-foot-8 Dunbar made the practice squad out of camp last year, was activated in Week 5 at Baltimore and played in the remaining 12 games. His practice time and playing time increased as last year's backup, Felix Jones, struggled with injuries.

Dallas decided not to bring back Jones and drafted Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle in the fifth round. Owner Jerry Jones hinted after the draft that Randle was the likely replacement for Jones, even suggesting that the diminutive Dunbar couldn't be anything more than a third-down back.

Dunbar still has a lot to prove, but he's been strong early in camp.

"I want to establish myself every time I go on the field," Dunbar said. "I want to show them I can play. It doesn't matter if we had a draft pick or not."

Randle has been behind from the moment he was drafted after skipping his senior season at Oklahoma State. He missed the offseason after thumb surgery for an injury sustained in the bowl game last season. He's been on the field for all of camp, but has struggled at times with dropped passes and muffed punt returns.

He had his best day of camp Sunday simply because it was his busiest. He hasn't been getting many reps, but took advantage of more chances with his best run of camp in one drill. He scored the only touchdown of the scrimmage.

"His big challenge right now is getting snaps, getting reps, getting experience running this stuff over and over and over again," coach Jason Garrett said. "He gets a chance to do that over the next five or six weeks."

Randle has two spots to jump if he's going to be the backup. He's running No. 4 behind Phillip Tanner, a third-year player who's been battling for a roster spot since the day he arrived.

"I've just got to keep working," Randle said. "It's a grind. Ain't nothing handed to you. Everything is earned."

The other running back getting some work is rookie Kendial Lawrence, an undrafted free agent from Missouri.

NOTES: WR Dez Bryant was in pull pads but didn't participate in practice Sunday. He's nursing a sore hip. ... DL Ben Bass returned to practice two days after spraining his left ankle. Without him, the Cowboys were down to their fourth option at left defensive end. ... WR Cole Beasley (quad) and OL Ryan Cook (back) missed their second straight practices.

 

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