The Cowboys have completed their OTAs and minicamp practices. The offseason is history. Training camp in Oxnard is up next in late July.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – are attempting to answer 20 pressing questions as the team gets ready for camp and the 2016 season.
Today, our staff continues the series by trying to predict what skill position on offense keeps more players between running back and wide receiver.
No. 15 ) Do Cowboys Go Heavy At Wide Receiver or Running Back?
Bryan Broaddus:I could see this team carrying the extra running back over the receiver. With the work that Darius Jackson is going to get in camp, I believe it is going to be difficult to put him on the street. Just watching how he is carrying himself in these practices – there is something to his game. Look for Lance Dunbar to start on the Physically Unable to Perform list which will give the front office and coaches time to work with all these backs. What could be the key here for Jackson is that he is able to show that there are responsibilities that he can handle on special teams. If he can do that – then they could move on from Dunbar or Alfred Morris. I might be wrong about keeping Darren McFadden around but I just see more value in him than Morris because of his ability to be that every down back.
Rob Phillips:Who says they can't do both? Here's how: if Lance Dunbar starts the season on the physically unable to perform list, the Cowboys conceivably could keep three running backs and perhaps a fullback on the active roster to start the season. That's technically four running backs, with Dunbar a roster exemption on PUP for a minimum of six weeks. A sixth wide receiver could be a possibility, too, but that would require the team to go lighter at a position like tight end and keep three as opposed to four last year. Quarterback complicates the numbers a bit, because Tony Romo will have a primary backup – presumably Kellen Moore – and fourth-round pick Dak Prescott also was drafted to develop on the roster, likely as the third QB. If I have to choose an extra receiver or an extra true running back, I'll go with receiver since Andy Jones was my pick to grab the 53rd roster spot.
Nick Eatman: I'm going to say neither. And the real reason why is having to go long at quarterback and perhaps tight end, depending on the status of Escobar. But back to the question, I really don't see them going heavy at running back. Something will work itself out one way or another but I don't see the Cowboys keeping four tailbacks and a fullback. If they keep four backs to start the year, it means they never got a trade for Morris and/or McFadden and Darius Jackson was too good to let go. But it'll mean they don't keep a fullback and use an extra tight end. They won't keep more than five receivers so that's not the answer. I don't see them going long at receiver or running back. That'll have to occur at quarterback, defensive end and maybe linebacker.
David Helman:I've got a sneaking suspicion that this team is going to have no choice but to go long at the running back position -- there's simply too much talent there not to. Most NFL teams tend to carry three running backs, and the Cowboys have three guys who look like locks in Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. On top of that, they re-signed Lance Dunbar in the spring, and it's hard to imagine they won't want to keep him around until he's fully recovered from his knee injury. They also felt good enough about rookie running back Darius Jackson to spend a sixth-round draft pick on him. We also can't forget how much this coaching staff likes to keep a fullback, so throw Rod Smith and Keith Smith into the conversation. That's seven options for the final roster, which is more than double what you'd typically see. Even if Dunbar starts the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, it won't be an easy decision. I'm not going to be surprised if this team winds up keeping four running backs and a fullback on the final roster, which means they'd have to light in several other areas to compensate.