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What's Up at RB? Zeke, Rico lead crowded room


FRISCO, Texas — Though there were eyes on some running back prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys opted to forego selecting one so that they could upgrade their offensive line and linebacker groups, feeling confident they had a safety net in the possible, and eventual, re-signing in tandem with Rico Dowdle being retained in free agency.

There's also the Royce Freeman variable, added this offseason to help bolster the corps, and adding yet another body to a room that is far from lacking in the regard.

Currently, there are seven, yes seven, running backs on the Cowboys' roster — including undrafted free agent Nathaniel Peat, former fifth-round pick (2023) Deuce Vaughn, Malik Davis and Snoop Conner.

And while he's not technically a running back, you could arguably throw fullback Hunter Luepke into the conversation as well, making it an even eight players vying for reps.

But with the likelihood of only half of that eight making the final roster, if that many, the battle behind Elliott and Dowdle will be no holds barred.

Let's discuss "What's Up" at running back in Dallas for 2024 training camp.

What We Know: For the Cowboys, no position group may be more uncertain than the running back corps. The only proven rusher is Ezekiel Elliott, who certainly has the heart and desire but physically is on the downside of his career. Can he find any of that old magic? Head coach Mike McCarthy has already stated the offense will be using a committee approach at the position with Elliott likely getting between 10-15 touches per game with a collection of Rico Dowdle and others receiving the rest.

Of course, this is how most NFL teams are constructing their ground attack these days. Still, clubs usually have confidence in at least one of their running backs to be an offensive threat. Do the Cowboys? At this point, it's honestly hard to tell.

What We Don't: The real decision may be who is going to be third on the running back depth chart. Will the Cowboys go with the speedy but smaller Deuce Vaughn? How about some additional size with Hunter Luepke or Royce Freeman? And don't forget about Malik Davis and Snoop Connor. The competition here will be fierce throughout training camp and the preseason.

What to Watch For: Royce Freeman was an interesting offseason pickup. While he hasn't gained more than 500 yards since his rookie campaign of 2018, he's got 79 games and six years of experience under his belt. He also has plenty of size at 6-0, 238 pounds. Last season with the Rams he had 77 carries, his most since 2019, and averaged 4.1 yards per attempt. Consider that the Cowboys' leading rusher in 2023, Tony Pollard, had a 4.0 mark.

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