Running back

Cowboys need meter: Three and a half stars

The Cowboys set a club record last season.

It’s not one they wanted.

The team rushed for 1,265 yards. That is 144 yards less than the previous Cowboys low in a 16-game season and represents a drop of 542 yards from 2011.

Somewhere, Emmitt Smith is cringing. Why? The team’s total rushing output in 2012 wouldn’t crack the top seven seasons produced by the Hall of Fame running back.

DeMarco Murray rushed for 131 yards in the team’s season-opening victory over the New York Giants and never came close to equaling that total the remainder of the season. Murray missed six games and half of another with a foot injury and was held to 53 yards or less on the ground in five other games.

Felix Jones rushed for 402 yards — his lowest total since his rookie season — and averaged a career-low 3.6 yards a carry. Jones failed to gain more than 30 yards on the ground in nine of the games he played.

Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar saw spot duty and provided little. Fullback Lawrence Vickers saw his time severely limited because the Cowboys’ habit of falling behind early shifted the emphasis to the passing game to catch up.

Bottom line: Head coach Jason Garrett consistently talks about the need for balance. The team’s inability to run forced the offense to be one-dimensional on too many occasions last season.