Injury to pivotal role player casts dark cloud over Cowboys' Week 4 win

New York Jets v Dallas Cowboys
New York Jets v Dallas Cowboys / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages

It only took four games for Dallas Cowboys fans to come to terms with Deuce Vaughn's limitations as an NFL running back. As exciting and dynamic as Vaughn is, he was exposed on more than one occasion in Sunday's win against the Patriots.

Vaughn rushed eight times for nine yards, and had a couple questionable reps in pass protection, including one that resulted in a sack of Dak Prescott. Fans might have noticed Vaughn getting extended run in the second half despite his struggles.

Yes, the game was already decided, but the Cowboys were quietly without backup running back Rico Dowdle. McCarthy smartly rested Tony Pollard in the second half given his monster workload to start the season, but Dowdle's absence vaulted Vaughn into a prominent role.

The severity of Dowdle's hip injury remains unclear. X-rays came back clean, but the powerful rusher will undergo an MRI on Monday.

Cowboys' Rico Dowdle to undergo MRI for hip injury suffered in win vs Patriots

Talk about throwing a wet blanket over a blowout win.

The Cowboys were absolutely smart to entrust their young running backs after they released Ezekiel Elliott in the offseason. Finally healthy, Dowdle had an awesome training camp and preseason and won the RB2 job over Malik Davis as a result.

In three games, Dowdle has 71 rushing yards on 4.2 yards per carry. He's also caught all four of his targets for 42 yards and a touchdown. He has two explosive runs, has forced three missed tackles and is posting 2.49 yards after contact per attempt, per Pro Football Focus.

For what it's worth, Pollard is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season. He's added four explosive runs and five forced missed tackles, to go with 2.71 yards after contact per attempt. Very comparable numbers even though Pollard has almost four times as many rush attempts.

The most concerning part of Dowdle's injury? He suffered a hip fracture in the 2021 preseason that ended his season. It's impossible to say at this stage if this injury is related, but fans are understandably worried for the young RB.

Dowdle's role on the Cowboys' offense is a pivotal one. He's the team's short-yardage specialist and preferred option in the second half of games when McCarthy wants to wear defenses down. Additionally, he's been involved on a number of third downs and was starting to gain the staff's trust as a pass-catcher.

We'll have updates on Dowdle as they're made available, but his injury was definitely lost in the shuffle amidst the Cowboys' 35-point win.