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Marion Barber Ruled Out Against the Colts; Tashard Choice Needs to Shine in Opportunity

The Dallas Cowboys were 1-7 this season three weeks ago, and that record could be explained by numerous reasons. Bad luck, a couple of injuries, Romo being gone, defensive playcalling was predictable at times, penalties, and disorganization in general.

Well, another large reason is the Cowboys did not run the football well enough to win games. Only once did the Cowboys have a running back gain 100 yards in a single game. Felix Jones had 109 yards on 15 carries against the Titans in a 34-27 loss. Five times the team has been held to less than a 100 yards rushing in an entire game.

For a team that has the "three-headed monster," they have not shown productivity in the ground game. Now, Marion Barber is out this week due to an calf injury suffered in the Thanksgiving game.

Tashard Choice, the third-string back, is scheduled to have a chance to seize the moment and make something happened. He was a fourth round pick from Georgia Tech in the 2008 draft, and the thing I notice about him is he wants to play. He loves the game, and he works really hard. He will a chance to play significantly this Sunday behind Felix Jones.

This has not been a great season for him. He was the player who had the ball at the end of the first half in the season opener against Washington. DeAngelo Hall managed to strip the ball out of his hands and take it in for a touchdown that ultimately won the game 13-7

Not a very good time for him to have his first fumble, and it basically was a precursor game to this tumultuous season Dallas is having right now.

However, Tashard Choice will have an opportunity to gain some confidence back by playing against the injury-plagued Colts.

The Colts are not looking like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. They have lost so many guys to injuries, and Peyton Manning cannot carry the team forever. The Colts are especially weak in the front seven and stopping the run.

They are ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed, 28th in rushing touchdowns allowed, 31st in yards per attempt allowed with 4.9 yards per carry, and they are not going to have Bob Sanders, a beast of a safety, in due to injury. Gary Brackett, their talented inside linebacker, is listed as questionable  because he practiced today.

So, Tashard Choice has a real opportunity here to destroy a team and prove that he deserves to play more than he does. Choice has risen to the occasion before. In 2008, the Cowboys did not have Marion Barber or Felix Jones, and Choice started against the Ravens, the Giants, and the Steelers.

The Ravens, Steelers, and Giants finished 1st, 2nd, and 9th respectively in total rushing yards allowed in 2008. So, Choice went against the cream of the crop in run defense, and here are the results:

Choice has 23 carries against the Steelers for 88 rushing yards and five catches for 78 yards, but no touchdowns in a 20-13 loss that happened when the Steelers intercepted Tony Romo twice in the fourth quarter, and one was a pick-six. That is 166 total offensive yards from scrimmage.

The next week, Choice goes against the Giants and has only nine rushing attempts, but gets 91 yards and  38-yard touchdown run to seal a 20-8 win over New York. He also had four catches for 52 yards as well. That is a total of 143 offensive yards from scrimmage.

Then, the next week, he started against the Ravens, and he had 17 carries for 90 yards with a touchdown and seven catches for 25 yards to total 115 offensive yards from scrimmage. The Ravens defeated Dallas 33-24, so you can definitely say that a lack of defense was more of a cause to the loss than Choice underachieving.

Against the top two run defenses and another in the top ten, Tashard Choice had 259 yards rushing, 16 catches for 155 receiving yards, two touchdowns, and a total of 414 offensive yards from scrimmage.

I can quote numbers all day, but I'd be beating a dead horse. The facts are that this young man has stepped up to the challenge before and has produced for Dallas, and if the Cowboys let him loose, I mean really get loose, on the Indianapolis Colts, then he might have a career game and be a recurring nightmare for the Colts players every drive.

Dallas won the last time the Colts played the Cowboys in a score of 21-14. The Colts were 9-0 at the time, so Dallas ended a chance for a perfect season, and the Colts finished 12-4, and won the Super Bowl that year. Dallas had an interception for a touchdown in that game by linebacker Kevin Burnett, who incidentally, took another interception off of Peyton Manning for a touchdown last week for the Chargers.

Roy Williams also had an interception, and Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware both had a sack that game. The Cowboys won in the fourth quarter with Marion Barber scoring two rushing touchdowns, and Tony Romo was 19/23 for 226 yards and an interception.

The Cowboys are pretty much done for the year unless the entire NFC East loses the rest of their games, but Dallas has to finish strong in order to have the belief that they can come back next year and win. When you are a 3-8 team, the true player inside of you shows. These years show who really can play despite obstacles and with no incentives. Those that do play are the guys that you make a championship team out of, and the ones that quit are the ones that are shown the door out.

I intend to watch that game and see who plays, and who quits.

James Williamson's personal thoughts: I think Dallas will win this game because they are playing much better than they were before, and they have the ability in them because I've seen it before. The real problem will be stopping Peyton Manning. Kitna can throw five touchdowns, and Manning will throw six with the way the secondary has been performing. Dallas will need to stop Peyton Manning a few times to win this ball game. No question there. Stopping Peyton Manning is the first and foremost key to winning this game because he carries that football team like I carry a backpack.



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