Jerry Jones, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is challenging the team’s running backs to perform in the upcoming season as he thinks the offense will open up if opponents respect their ground game.

"Even if we're in that game, even if they've done a good job of taking it away from us a little bit, even if we're having to throw more, the word is respect," Jones said to the Dallas Morning News. "If we can get defenses to compromise what they do their best to have to work on something that we can do because we have a running game, then we've accomplished something going into the game."

Star RB DeMarco Murray left for the Philadelphia Eagles in the recent offseason signing a five-year, $42 million deal with the rival team. In place of Murray, expected to handle the bulk of the carries in Dallas are 28-year-old Darren McFadden, 25-year-old Lance Dunbar and 23-year-old Joseph Randle.

All three are capable running backs but should be hard-pressed to duplicate the production of Murray, who was the team’s leading rusher in the last four seasons. The Cowboys are also reportedly looking to add another young running back for the new season. 

The Cowboys are pinning their hopes most on McFadden, who was the fourth overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. The eight-year veteran had 534 rushing yards on 155 carries in 16 regular season games for the Oakland Raiders last year. Randle had 343 rushing yards on 51 carries last year while Dunbar had 99 rushing yards on limited attempts.

The Cowboys finish their preseason schedule against the Houston Texans Thursday, and by Saturday, the team must cut down the roster down to 53 players. The Cowboys open the season against the New York Giants on Sept. 13.