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OXNARD, Calif. -- With a serious competition brewing for DeMarco Murray's backup job, the Dallas Cowboys run game showed promise in the preseason opener, although it wasn't always against front-line competition.

But coming off the worst run-game production in franchise history in a 16 game season, Cowboys fans will no doubt take the positives. Meanwhile, one thing stuck out in a positive way for the head coach.

"There were no negative runs, which is a really, really important thing," said head coach Jason Garrett.

Backup runners Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, and rookie Joseph Randle all had good showings, and part of that was resisting the temptation to try and do too much.

"Sometimes you need to run the run, and not try to put your stamp on it," Garrett said. "I think that might be more of the case in a zone running scheme. You've got to make some dirty two- and three-yard runs where it doesn't look great."

And those little plays turn out to be critical when it comes to moving the ball, unlike last season.

"Besides not having a very good yards-per-attempt last year in the running game, we had so many negative runs," Garrett said. "It's just hard. You're playing from behind the sticks all the time, and you can't establish what you want to establish."

Without the negativity, new play caller Bill Callahan was able to keep the defense honest.

"Breaking the huddle we can do both, and you have to defend both," Garrett said.

Fans can only hope they see more of the same.

E-mail jtrahan@wfaa.com

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