With starting running back Ezekiel Elliott now facing a six-game suspension, could Rod Smith emerge as the Dallas Cowboys new bell cow?
It now appears that the Dallas Cowboys could be without the services of starting running back Ezekiel Elliott for the next few weeks. On Monday night, a New York federal judge denied Elliott’s request for a preliminary injunction that would continue to delay a six-game suspension he received from the NFL earlier this year.
After a 13-month investigation, the league suspended Elliott for his suspected involvement during three incidents of domestic violence stemming from July of 2016. Legal action by the second-year running back’s representatives allow him to play during the first seven games of the season. But it now appears Elliott will be forced to start serving that suspension immediately.
As for the Cowboys, they’ve been prepared to lose Elliott all season, keeping four running backs on their 53-man roster. In fact, veteran back Darren McFadden has been made inactive throughout the year, presumably to keep him well-rested and injury-free so he can step in during Zeke’s absence.
Joining McFadden on the depth chart are running backs Alfred Morris and Rod Smith. Morris has been Elliott’s primary backup and figures to receive the bulk of the opportunities initially. Smith has played in spot duty, while also providing extra value on special teams.
Both Morris and McFadden have had measurable success in the NFL. And they appear set to provide the Cowboys with an adequate rushing attack during Elliott’s absence. But it’s Smith’s potential that intrigues me the most.
At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Smith has the frame of a bruiser back but the speed of a much more agile player. He’s also proven to be a nice receiver out of the backfield when given the opportunity. In the preseason, the 25-year old running back had seven catches for 57 yards.
In the Hall of Fame game, Smith also proved he can carry the load, rushing for 64 yards on 18 carries. Two week later, he’d rack up 53 yards on seven carries against the Indianapolis Colts.
Smith seems to bring a bit more juice and energy to the position over Morris. He flashed his potential in Week Seven against the San Francisco 49ers, rattling off a jaw dropping 45-yard run late in the game that showed off his great combination of strength and speed.
That play by Jaylon Smith’s older brother made you wonder what this kid could do with more opportunities. And with Elliott sidelined, Rod Smith may very well get that chance.
Dallas figures to replace Zeke’s production using all three players via a running back-by-committee. But that method can easily backfire and no one back gets into a proper rhythm.
That could mean the Cowboys would opt to designate one running back to be their bell cow at some point, while the other two split spot duty. Although Morris and McFadden have the experience, it’s the younger, more energetic Smith who may ultimately win that role.
As the season progresses, I fully expect Rod Smith will continue to impress and to receive more and more opportunities. And by the time Ezekiel Elliott returns from his suspension, the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff could be looking for ways to keep Smith involved regardless.