Which Cowboys Running Back is the odd man out in Dallas?
Following the selection of Ezekiel Elliott by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2016 NFL Draft, which running back in Dallas will be the odd man out this season?
The Dallas Cowboys believed they have found a future superstar in Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. So much so, they elected to bypass more pressing needs on their roster in order to select Elliott fourth overall in last month’s NFL Draft.
But adding another player to the depth chart at a position already flush with talent means someone is likely to become the odd man out before the regular season starts. So whom might that player be in Dallas at the running back position? Let’s breakdown the current roster in an attempt to answer that question.
Elliott was chosen fourth overall last month in the NFL Draft. He will likely be the starter on this team when the regular season begins and for the foreseeable future. There is zero chance he’s released anytime soon.
McFadden rushed for 1,089 yards last season while only starting in 10 games. Despite that feat, he has an extensive injury history that precludes Dallas from relying solely on him as their workhorse back.
Run DMC will turn 29-years old in August. He is also in the final season of a two-year deal he signed with the Cowboys last March. Although these factors make him a possible candidate for release, his running style is a better overall fit with Elliott’s than any other running back on the current depth chart.
Coming off his worst season as a pro, former Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris signed a two-year contract with the Cowboys this offseason. But in his four-year career, Morris has rushed for over 1,000 yards three consecutive times.
Morris is also a two-time Pro Bowler. The 27-year old is entering his prime and has had measurable success in the NFL. Morris also brings an element of physicality that has been missing in the Cowboys offensive backfield, and he should be an asset on short-yardage and goal line runs.
But is Morris’ running style too similar to Elliott’s in Dallas? And will he struggle in a shared backfield like he did last season in Washington with rookie runner Matt Jones?
Fifth-year running back Lance Dunbar was likely the Cowboys best offensive weapon through the first three games of the season in 2015. Dunbar had a whopping 21 catches for 215 yards as a receiver out of the backfield last year in the very short span.
Unfortunately, yet another season-ending injury cut his contribution short. This time he tore the ACL, MCL and patellar tendon in his left knee in Week Four against the New Orleans Saints.
It is a devastating injury that is expected to land Dunbar on the PUP List at the start of the regular season, forcing him to miss at least half of the year. During that time, he will not take up a roster spot. But when Dunbar returns, the Cowboys will have a tough decision to make.
Picked in the sixth round, rookie running back Darius Jackson is an obvious candidate for release and placement on the Cowboys practice squad in 2016. Especially considering there are proven veterans ahead of him on the depth chart in Dallas.
But Dunbar’s injury has opened the door for the young running back out of Eastern Michigan. At 6-0, 221 pounds, Jackson ran a blazing 4.38 forty-time at his pro day and was drafted mainly due to those outstanding measurables.
If Jackson can impress the Cowboys this offseason, and carve a place for himself on special teams, the rookie has a chance to make the final 53-man roster.
Rod Smith, Keith Smith
Just a quick note about the two Smith’s here. Both are switching positions in an attempt to make the final roster at fullback. I honestly don’t like either’s chances of making the team at a position that’s slowly becoming obsolete in the NFL. I’d expect the Cowboys to keep an extra tight end over a fullback in 2016.
I think Dunbar’s injury delays the Cowboys really tough decision for this position. Jackson’s performance this offseason will factor in whether Dallas decides to keep three running backs on the active roster or four. The rookie’s ability to contribute on special teams could be the decider.
At this point, I’m not sure you can part with either McFadden or Morris. I like them both alongside Elliott for different reasons. So, as of now, in my opinion, that makes Jackson the odd man out.
Ultimately, these things usually have a way of working themselves out. The truth is, this decision may be made for the Cowboys through injury, poor play or some other unforeseen event.
Next: Criticize the Cowboys Jaylon Smith pick at your own risk
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