Youth Is Served – Cowboys RB Breakdown v2.0

Rodney Dangerfield

The Dallas Cowboys next mini-camp starts on May 24th finally bringing the teams veterans and rookies together on the field for the first time. Even though contact is not allowed during these practice sessions we will get a small taste of football that we have been drooling for since the season ended last year. I’m sure everyone is excited to see Tony Romo back practicing with the team but i’m more interested to see how the team marches out their running backs. The Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott in the 1st round and Darius Jackson in the 6th round to go with veterans Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris and let’s not forget about Lance Dunbar who was resigned during free agency. Dunbar will most likely start the season on PUP as he heals from another knee injury.

I’m under the belief that Coach Garrett & Co. will make Ezekiel Elliott earn the starting job and not hand it to him even with the big contract. Everyone knows what he can do when he has the ball in his hands but the most important aspect of his job will be picking up the blitz. We’ve seen him do it in college but now he’s with the big boys and his ability to keep Romo upright will determine how much he plays initially. Darius Jackson will have an uphill battle to make the team but I think he will show something in preseason that will make him hard to cut. Maybe it’s his 4.3 speed at 220 lbs or that he reminds me of a bigger version of retired Robert Smith of the Vikings but I am officially picking him as my “pet cat” to make the team, most likely taking the spot of one of the veterans.Rodney Dangerfield

Darren McFadden kind of reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield because he can’t get any respect.

 

With 239 carries for 1,089 yards, you would think that he has earned the opportunity to be the lead dog but rumors of the team changing their blocking scheme to fit his running style has bought more questions than job security. McFadden started the season behind “The Underwear Thief” aka Joseph Randle but once he showed that he was unreliable (that’s an understatement) McFadden took the job and ran away with it. Initially I was unsure what McFadden had left in the tank but he proved a lot of people wrong playing in 16 games for the second time in his eight year career. Mcmcfadden-blitzFadden added breakaway speed to the lineup even though it was far from his old Arkansas/Raider days and showed sure hands with 40 catches for 328 yards. If he excelled at one thing last year it was his pass blocking. You can see below that McFadden has no problem stepping up to take the blitzing Safety Reshad Jones completely out of the play. If you remember this play, Romo did end up on on the ground but McFadden did his job.

 

Alfred Morris comes to the Cowboys after being put on the shelf in Washington. In 2015 Morris saw his rushing attempts decrease as the team handed the job to former Florida Gator Matt Jones. We’ve seen that Morris can be a featured running back from his days of gashing the Cowboys defense. At 5’10 and 224 lbs, Morris would seem to be the thunder to McFadden’s lightning. Morris runs hard and seems to be a good fit for the Cowboys and their zone blocking scheme. In 16 games, Morris ran for 751 yards but only averaged 3.7 yds so there is some concern that he is starting to slow down after averaging over 250 carries the first three years of his career. Morris has never been a threat catching the ball out of the backfield so he most likely would not be in the game on third down but has seemed to solve the fumbling issues he had early in his career.

The Cowboys running back room is crowded and barring injury there is no way that they can take five running backs into the regular season. Let’s pretend that the team gets to the final preseason game and everyone not named Dunbar is healthy. If you project Elliott as your starter, do you need two veteran backups and another rookie (Darius Jackson) as your fourth back? McFadden has one year left on his deal and by cutting him you only have 100K as dead money on the cap. Some analysts say that you can trade McFadden for a draft pick but I don’t see that happening.

If you’ve read my posts before, you know that I have no problem spending Jerrah’s money or helping him set his roster. The best bet for the team is to let youth be served. Cut McFadden and let Morris and Elliott battle it out to see who starts and keep Jackson on your 53 man roster. The only problem you have is when Dunbar comes off of the PUP and the roster spot that he will need. It may take the team going light at WR or even the OL but keeping Jackson allows you to prepare for the future of the team. Dunbar is only on a one year contract and Morris signed for two years and could find himself in McFadden’s position next year as the team continues to get younger.

So Mote It Be!