OXNARD, Calif. — Ronald Jones had a solid day in the first padded practice for the Dallas Cowboys, but he then received some news from the NFL front office that put a halt to any good mojo emanating from RoJo on Monday.
Jones has been suspended by the league for the first two games of the 2023 regular season for violation of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
He can still participate in practices, team meetings and each of the three preseason games, but this punishment does create many more question marks when it comes to evaluating the running back room in Dallas. As Tony Pollard walks into a year wherein he'll play under the franchise tag, the depth chart behind him is also anything but settled.
The return of Rico Dowdle, both from injury that derailed his 2022 season and on another one-year deal, has drawn early praise from head coach (and offensive play-caller) Mike McCarthy, who made it a point only hours before news broke regarding Jones.
McCarthy also pointed at the development of Malik Davis, a second-year talent who showed flashes when activated as a rookie in 2022, with Dowdle and Davis having previously been locked in a heated camp battle prior to this year's stint in Oxnard.
They've picked up right where they left off.
The addition of both Deuce Vaughn and Hunter Luepke to the mix this past April only adds that much more spark to the powder keg at the position, and it all applies pressure to Jones to lead the pack behind Pollard as more of the power back solution in the wake of releasing Ezekiel Elliott this offseason.
Vaughn looks phenomenal thus far in practice, by the way.
Jones is off to a solid start on the field, but it remains to be seen how the Cowboys will approach the situation going forward — knowing they'll need to fully evaluate those who will be allowed by the league to take the field in Week 1 against the New York Giants and in Week 2 against Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets.
At best, they'll stick to their current plan and see if Jones can make a name for himself on the roster that will allow the team to overlook the two-game suspension on the two-time Super Bowl winner.
At worst, he's facing a roster decision that would only cost the team $302,500 in dead money (per OverTheCap.com) if the Cowboys opted to move on from his one-year deal.
That amount is small enough that they may sit tight and let it all play out, but no matter how you slice it, it instantly gives the young running backs in the room some leverage they didn't have prior to Monday.