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Training Camp | 2023

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Cowboys' Rico Dowdle making strides toward earning RB2 role: 'Biggest opportunity of my life'


OXNARD, Calif. — It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys have some decisions to make in the running backs room, in the post-Ezekiel Elliott era that will also see Tony Pollard play under the franchise tag in 2023. Pollard is now the definitive RB1 entering this season though, that much is certain, but what of the competition behind him — one that includes Rico Dowdle?

As it stands, Dowdle has begun to emerge in training camp as a frontrunner to land the role of RB2, a role that felt ordained for Ronald Jones prior to a groin injury suffered last week that followed news of a two-game suspension, an injury that will cost him "some time" in August.

Dowdle is champing at the bit to prove himself after losing the majority of his 2022 season to a hip injury.

"I'm feeling good and I've been working on the small things this offseason, making sure my body is right," he said as the team prepares to host the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first preseason game of 2023. "I was out [since Week 5] last year, so I've had a lot of time to get my body right, and to come in ready and prepared. But definitely feeling good and ready to go, get to the preseason and see how this is gonna shake out."

As it stands, it's quite the battle between Dowdle and second-year talent Malik Davis, with head coach Mike McCarthy offering praise for both on a regular basis. It's also true, however, that Dowdle has garnered a bit more, and it doesn't hurt that he is also entering his fourth year in the system.

That means he's been with the Cowboys the entire time McCarthy has been head coach.

"Rico has probably had some of the most impressive pass pro pickups so far this camp," said McCarthy on Tuesday. 

For his part, Dowdle says he's always taken pride in keeping his QB clean.

"I've always taken pride in it, since college. You have to protect the quarterback. You've got to take pride in pass protection, and that's one of those roles that Zeke was great at. So, I've gotta come in and do it. I've always taken pride in pass protection since I was in [high school]."

That'll do, but don't forget about the other tools in his shed. 

"We tend to forget Rico scored a touchdown on a kickoff as a rookie," McCarthy added. "His second-level running is still exceptional. He had some injuries to overcome but now we're seeing a healthy Rico." 

Speaking of his health, Dowdle is all smiles and optimism when describing it, after having tweaked his offseason regimen to make sure he doesn't mirror 2022 — when he had a firm grip on the RB3 role behind Pollard and Elliott before going on to suffer injury the ushered in Davis.

"I did a lot of stretching and conditioning — just staying on it," Dowdle said. "I've always been a soft tissue guy in my career, so stretching and staying on top of that. 

"I get in the hot tub every day and in the cold tub after practice every day. Doing the small things for my body and staying on top of it."

His first chance to truly prove he can translate his impressive camp reps into actual games will arrive on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, and he's champing at the bit for it.

"Biggest opportunity of my life," he said. "To back up [Tony Pollard] and get that No. 2 spot [this season], I've been here four years so I'm looking for the competition and the battle, and the opportunity that comes with it being in that No. 2 role. … Looking forward to showing what I can do."

The roller coaster of last season operates on repeat in his mind, feeling like it could've been another step forward in his bid to be viewed as an impact talent in the RB room. He was offered a one-year reup by the Cowboys this offseason because of their belief in his ability when healthy, and he chose to return to finish his story.

He has no intention of letting up going forward, and he's taken everything he's learned from both Pollard and Elliott over the previous three seasons and integrated it into his plan of attack.

"Stay locked in and stay on top of your sh-t," Dowdle said. "It's always next man up and you never know what might happen, so stay on top of your sh-t. Just be ready, be prepared for when your time comes and I've got the opportunity now. … [Zeke] texted us in a group chat — wishing us good luck and saying he knew we'd go out there and handle business." 

Might this be a breakout season for the former undrafted free agent out of South Carolina?

He's betting that answer is yes.

"Yes sir," he said. "I've got the opportunity to. It's all set in stone for me and I just have to go out there and win my job, and keep doing what I'm doing. Everything else will take care of itself."

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