When we take a look at the roster of the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys we see a lot of familiar faces, a handful of new faces, and some missing faces. One of the guys who left via free agency was Lance Dunbar.
Lance Dunbar never made a huge impact on the Cowboys and served as primarily the 3rd down back in the Dallas offense. Dunbar signed with the LA Rams this offseason and will likely play the same roll in LA that he did in Dallas.
In his five seasons with the Cowboys’, Lance Dunbar had 94 rushing attempts for 422 yards and only one score. In the receiving game he had 68 receptions for 646 yards and no scores. With that stat line you would think the team would be perfectly content with letting the former undrafted free agent walk, but who will end up filling his role?
When you look at the Cowboys current running back depth chart, it looks a little something like this:
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Darren McFadden
- Alfred Morris
- Jahad Thomas
- Rod Smith
Of course the easy answer here is Darren McFadden. Or some may even say “just let Zeke do it”. But it’s not all that simple. Ezekiel Elliott is by far the Cowboys workhorse running back and he rarely comes off the field. But that truth is, he needs to rest his legs from time to time in each game. When Elliott did come off the field last year it was usually to give Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden the 2nd series of every game, or to put in Lance Dunbar as the receiving threat out of the backfield.
Alfred Morris isn’t an option as the teams 3rd down back due to his lack of speed, receiving skills, and pass blocking ability. Morris could see a huge drop off in carries this season and his roster spot could even be in jeopardy more so than some may think.
Darren McFadden is also another good candidate and could certainly be the answer to the question. McFadden missed most of the season last year after fracturing his elbow last offseason. McFadden had a great 2015 season finishing the year with 1,089 yards after taking over as the lead back in week eight. McFadden has natural pass catching hands and has the speed to hit the open field in a hurry, but with his age and amount of injuries the question still remains… “Can Darren McFadden stay healthy”?
Jahad Thomas is an undrafted free agent out of Temple who may be pushing Alfred Morris for a roster spot. If Thomas has an intriguing camp and preseason don’t be surprised to see Jahad Thomas name on the final roster and Alfred Morris’s name not. Thomas is the ideal player for the role we are trying to fill. At 5’10 170 pounds, he has very smooth hands out of the backfield and is more so quick than fast. Thomas had success as a runner and a receiver at Temple University, in 2016 Jahad Thomas rushed for 953 yards on 207 carries for 13 touchdowns and 418 yards on 33 receptions for 6 touchdowns. Keep an eye on Jahad Thomas in preseason, he could be the next Andy Jones, Matt Johnson, or Ryan Williams for Cowboys Nation.
One guy who I think could fill the Lance Dunbar role that isn’t on the running back depth chart is 4th round pick, Ryan Switzer. Ryan Switzer will play a large role on offense, likely be the #1 punt returner, and could make a case for being the teams 3rd down back on some passing downs. Switzer has a history of playing RB in high school and even dabbled with it at North Carolina. Switzer has great vision in the field to find holes and hit them, and has very smooth hands. The only questions surrounding Switzer’s ability to be a option as a specialty RB is his blocking ability. If Ryan Switzer proves to be a quality blocker, don’t be surprised to see the teams fourth round pick make a strong case to be the teams third option at RB for the Dallas Cowboys.
Got a Lot to Say From RVA – Follow me on Twitter- @connorx147