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Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we'll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven't really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It's pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn't suit Prescott.

It's time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn't something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece -- by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more "Dak-friendly".

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers' development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven't benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers' coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball -- with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 -- while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott's favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant's way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That's why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that's pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He's a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers' sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can't find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers' unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that's not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more "Dak-friendly".

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more "Dak-friendly"?


Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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34 Comments
  • oneputter

    well we would certainly hope so, problem is when will we see him?

    cowboys are too loyal to a fault to some of their marquee/veteran players. IMO, witten should have stepped aside last year or been reduced to a limited role as a 3rd TE. we should have used swaim more as a passing threat, as well as hanna and/or jarwin (although i am not sure about jarwin as a passing threat since he was more of a hybrid blocker at OSU).

    we should consider a TE in this draft, there are plenty of good ones.

    • Brian Martin

      I agree. I think Witten should start splitting reps with a younger/more athletic TE. Whether that is Rico Gathers or someone they draft is the question. But, like you said they’re loyal to their veteran players. We will just have to wait and see.

      • Michael White

        My question with the loyalty thing is why? What have we won? Witten should have been reduced to the #3. No disrespect to him, but consider the other players mindset when it’s already been decided who the starter is going to be. And it’s been 2 years. Its time to see what he got. You can’t continue to say he isn’t ready…i understand the concussion…but now it’s time to show and prove…Dallas has had some good tight ends that have left and produced in other places..it’s time for the coaching staff to coach these guys up and produce

        • Brian Martin

          Unfortunately it’s just hard to move on from those kind of players. It’s going to happen sooner or later, it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s going to be a coaching decision or Jason Witten’s. Somebody is going to have to make the tough choice though.

        • Timothy Zackery

          Only question i have had is could the other tight end gotten open. Bcause i truly think if they showed that in practice they probably would have us them more. I think Rico Gather is our only hope out those tight ends. They good enough to have around but we should draft one too.

        • Brian Martin
  • Ervinlang318

    Its very Selfish on Witten’s part to not help his team out and take a step back and only be in on Red Zone Packages

    • Brian Martin

      I think selfish is the wrong word. Jason Witten is a competitor and he knows he’s the Cowboys best option at TE right now. He’s not going to want to come off the field for someone who he believes is inferior. This is ultimately going to be a coaching decision. But, until they find somebody that can start cutting into his playing time Witten will continue to receive the bulk of the workload. Maybe Gathers is the answer or an unknown draft pick. We will just have to wait and find out.

      • EverybodyTalks

        I agree that selfish is the wrong word. The other active TEs are not as good as Witten. He still knows how to get open. The problem is YAC. Rico could solve that part while continuing to ;learn from the future HOF.

      • Michael White

        I agree with your assessment of his competitive nature…but he grew into becoming a great tight end..and that came with reps…somehow they need to get some reps for Rico…if you’re waiting on him to become Jason Witten 2.0. Its not going to happen. Find out his strengths and weaknesses coach him up but let him play..film and practice reps are totally different than game time reps…

      • Brian Martin
    • Brian Martin
  • Keith Jones

    He could be a major threat in the middle of the field imagine pick or chose your poison that will kill you either death by Zeke running the ball down your throat or ( Zeus ) Rico Gathers learn from Witten roaming the middle of the defense like a bigger Gronk but a much better athlete and can you believe bigger in size or a young top notch number one threat on the perimeter occupying the defense number one cornerback or two defenders and last one of two number 2 receivers that can take the top off at any given time of the game not to mention switzer capabilities in this offense the skies the limit

  • dallas1966

    It’s up to a stale Cowboys coaching staff, that are afraid to topple the Apple court, meaning des bryant, jason witten, and cole beasley , done of these receiver can separate.

    With a Dak Attack friendly offense, the Romo friendly offense wide receiver will not be a fit, due their in- ability to separate. In order for the Dak Attack friendly offense to be successful, Dak Attack will need speed.

    Romo was at the stage of his career, where speed wasn’t essential at the wide receiver position.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment of this article.

  • Timothy Zackery

    Only if he can get his butt on the field. Once he on the field in they get to comfortable spot and trust then yes he probably could do just for Dak and the intire offense as that goes. If he come in and make plays the open the run game better for Zeke, in which will open up the passing game for Dak and the receivers. That what make a team go from good to great. Well all ready good but we need to get back to being great again. But for all of that too work we got to fix the offensive line. Got to have someone ready to step in when Tyron Smith is injured, that players got to be good at his job not just average player that don’t work in the nfl. Maybe the blocking changes coming with the new oline will help Chaz Green and the other lineman. Not seeing that Byron Bell will be back. Get someone in free agency plus draft no later then third round.

  • Roguewave1

    We have seen that Gathers can move and catch, but is he now a football player who can block?

  • Hector Espindola

    Time to see Rico as the main TE, while Witten plays as a blocking TE.

  • jason davis

    This dude is making songs saying F that B , his priorities arent the cowboys we should move on IMO

  • Russ_Te

    The 2 big offensive problems last year IMO were no depth at OT, and a poor receiving corps that wasn’t getting open often enough. Schemes aggravated both, and Dak had an NFL learning year about how to play with less protection & less run support.

    So the ‘Boys fan wants a better product in all those ways. In which receivers churn is essential. I will deal Beasley for fair value, because I think I can get Switzer to a similar level as a route runner and he has more speed for RAC. Deal Williams, keep Butler. Get an impact WR up the draft, or at least a project guy with speed down the draft. Now you have a different unit, and Dez can work as a power possession receiver underneath guys who stretch the coverages.

    If Gathers is ready to make plays – 2 to 1 he is IMO – then I will take a development curve on his routes and his blocking. He could be a missing link for Dak.

  • John Williams

    Man I hope so, but I wonder if he’ll even make the roster. Witten’s still around and Hanna, Swaim, and Jarwin are going to be competing for roster spots.

    His athleticism would certainly help, but will they give him the opportunity to play.

  • Mr. Jaguar

    Great article. Absolutely. With a new TE Coach coming aboard. It’ll be a clean slate which I think will work in Gathers favor. I dont think the previous coaches trusted Gathers with the Romo friendly offense..
    With the emphasis on speed to create separation to making the offense more Dak Friendly will benefit Rico, with a new start will be able to utilize his 2 years experience in demonstrating the athelictisim at the TE position, to expand the football field for Dak Attack to be effective. It’s still sky’s the limit for Rico. I won’t be surprised if he becomes the staple for the TE position like Gonk for the Patriots. The next Billy Joe Dupree.

Star Blog

Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks 1

It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys offense failed in 2017. As much as these struggles were about who wasn't on the field for the Cowboys, the talent still out there could rarely do enough to win games. With an elite offensive line, young quarterback, and Dez Bryant on the outside, this was unacceptable and prompted changes in Dallas.

The biggest move the Cowboys made prior to the 2018 NFL Draft was moving on from Dez Bryant. The 29-year old wide receiver remains unsigned, as the Cowboys were comfortable entering the draft with a glaring need at the position.

Still waiting until the third round to add Colorado State's Michael Gallup, the Cowboys later drafted Cedrick Wilson and Tight End Dalton Schultz. Filling their biggest needs with great value on these picks, the Cowboys also found their left guard of the future in Connor Williams at 50th overall.

Add in developmental Quarterback Mike White and Running Back Bo Scarbrough and the Cowboys have an intriguing rookie class on offense - full of players that will absolutely need to step in right away, and some that are here to provide depth.

As I did with the Cowboys defense earlier in the week, here is my best projection on the roles the Cowboys draft picks on Scott Linehan's side of the ball will play.

Left Guard Connor Williams

Scouting Report: "Film Room: OL Connor Williams Is Cowboys Final Piece To Great Run Game"

This was the Dallas Cowboys best pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Keeping Texas Longhorns prospect Connor Williams close to home, ending his draft-week slide at 50th overall to a roar at AT&T Stadium, is more than just a feel good story.

This is a player that fills the Cowboys need for a long-term starter at left guard perfectly. Considered one of the best tackles in the nation prior to injury, Williams will of course benefit from playing between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.

Bringing his own trademark toughness and athleticism to a new interior position will give the Cowboys arguably their best offensive line since 2014. Ezekiel Elliott has to be a fan of the Connor Williams pick already - as you should be too.

Although the Cowboys did add veteran depth at OT this offseason, Williams is of course another emergency option on the roster to kick outside and handle himself at any position but center. Connor Williams will be a noticeably fun player at LG, creating movement through to the second level on a consistent basis.

Wide Receiver Michael Gallup

Scouting Report: "Film Room: WR Michael Gallup Provides Excellent Value In 3rd Round"

Predictions for what first-year Wide Receiver Michael Gallup will have in store for his rookie season in Dallas have been all over the place. While most are understandably skeptical of the Cowboys "relying" on a third round draft pick to become a force in the passing game, Gallup is a high upside player that fits the Cowboys new approach on offense.

Phasing out the need for a true number one receiver, Gallup is the Cowboys newest "Dak-friendly" asset. Perhaps playing under the radar too much at Colorado State, Gallup has all of the traits needed to explode onto the scene in 2018.

A lengthy athlete with effortless vertical ability and soft hands, Gallup will have no problem separating as a big target on the outside for Prescott. Because of this, I expect him to be the closest thing the Cowboys have to a "WR1" this season - lining up primarily at the X position and putting up numbers better than some of the eight receivers drafted before him.

Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker

Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz

Tight End Dalton Schultz

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker"

The Cowboys have a Jason Witten sized hole to fill inside The Star at Frisco. While just how much on-field production this constitutes is up for debate, the reality is that no player will mean as much to the Cowboys as Witten did for so long anytime soon.

Especially fourth round pick Dalton Schultz, drafted the day after Witten announced his retirement from the NFL. If given a chance to make a name for himself though, the Stanford tight end may rarely come off the field for the Cowboys.

Joining Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin on the roster - two experienced run blockers that are developing as pass catchers - Schultz has plenty of experience playing in Stanford's pro style offense.

Not the most overwhelming blocker, Schultz understands how to control bigger defenders at the line of scrimmage - never shying away from a chance to show his dominance and finish blocks to the ground.

Limited as a route runner and true receiver, Schultz is going to be eased into the Cowboys offense, but will have plenty of opportunities to stand out this summer in training camp and carve out a role in 12 or 13 personnel packages.

Quarterback Mike White

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: QB Mike White Brings Athleticism, Accuracy to Dallas Cowboys"

It's refreshing for the Cowboys to have a young quarterback that has stayed remarkably healthy through his first two seasons, as Dak Prescott will have no competition for the starting job in 2018. The real competition at quarterback will be directly behind him.

With Kellen Moore trading in his helmet for a coaching hat, second-year Quarterback Cooper Rush will be joined by fifth round pick Mike White. A touch thrower with pro-ready size and plenty of workable traits, White was one of the better late-round candidates the Cowboys could have added to their QB room.

White2

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Taking 2018 to soak in as much as he can about Scott Linehan's offense, it truly doesn't matter much if Mike White is QB2 or QB3 this season. If he was worth the 171st overall pick, the Cowboys believe in his potential, and will work to push him as far as he can go up the depth chart this offseason.

Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: WR Cedrick Wilson the Missing Vertical Threat for Cowboys Offense"

In 2017, the Cowboys entered the draft with a promise to restock their depleted secondary - doing so by drafting starting cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. This year, the wide receiver position felt the same way. Although the Cowboys waited until the sixth round to add their second rookie at WR, Cedrick Wilson is absolutely a player that can make an impact this year and outplay this draft status.

By trading Ryan Switzer at the draft, the Cowboys showed some faith in slot receiver Cole Beasley. Likely not coming off the field much this season, Wilson will have a hard time earning reps on the inside, where he menaces defenders with his length and long speed.

Wilson4

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These are still traits that Cedrick Wilson uses to win on the outside, where every receiver the Cowboys have is going to get a chance. Talented pass catchers are not going to make the final cut on the Cowboys roster, but Cedrick Wilson is one that will earn his spot all summer long.

Look for him to standout in the preseason regardless of who's throwing Wilson the ball, forcing the Cowboys to rotate him into their versatile offense for Prescott to have another big target out wide.

Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Dallas Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough

Running Back Bo Scarbrough

Scouting Report: "Film Review: What Bo Scarbrough Brings to the Cowboys Running Game"

Bo Scarbrough has generated plenty of buzz from Cowboys Nation, and mostly because his name is Bo Scarbrough. A recognizable name out of Alabama, Scarbrough became the Cowboys last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft at 236th overall.

For as much as we've discussed the decisions the Cowboys will have to make elsewhere on offense, their faith rests in starter Ezekiel Elliott. Behind Elliott, the Cowboys have a completely new stable of running backs though.

Tavon Austin was acquired during the draft by the Cowboys to fill the void once left (?) by Lance Dunbar, and at least for now it seems like Dallas has big plans for Tavon on offense. Working both Elliott and Austin onto the field won't be a problem for Linehan, but including Rod Smith and Bo Scarbrough very well might be.

With Smith firmly holding his roster spot because of special teams contributions, Scarbrough will have to follow in similar footsteps to secure his spot on America's Team. The idea of the Cowboys keeping a bruising back like Scarbrough to help them finish games is a fun one, but it doesn't feel practical when crunching the roster numbers.

If Scarbrough does make the cut however, he can absolutely spell Elliott in short yardage and goal line situations, running with consistent power and better-than-expected vision.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys have way too much invested into their offense to see it sputter like it did a year ago. Instilling optimism with the injured players they'll welcome back, the Cowboys were not complacent in adding talent at the draft either.

While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup may be the only true "starters" the Cowboys found, I expect both rookies to excel. Contributions from Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson could put this offensive draft class over the top - prepared nicely for the long run while featuring five players with high enough floors to play this season.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Cowboys en Español: La Llegada de Kris Richard, ¿La Salvación de Byron Jones?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 2

Desde el momento en el que llegó a la NFL, Byron Jones ha dado mucho de que hablar. Su talento y sus increíbles hazañas atléticas han llevado a pensar a la afición que está destinado al éxito como un defensivo en la secundaria de los Dallas Cowboys. Desafortunadamente, a pesar de algunas jugadas realmente sorprendentes y varios destellos, Jones no ha logrado establecerse como un claro titular de calidad en sus primeros tres años en la liga.

En su primera temporada, el equipo movió a Byron Jones por toda la defensiva, dejándolo jugar como safety, dentro y fuera de la caja, como cornerback interior y exterior. ¡Poco hubiera sorprendido que lo hubieran convertido en un jugador ofensivo!

La versatilidad era un fuerte para el defensivo saliente de la universidad de Connecticut, hasta que el equipo de coaches en Dallas lo convirtió en una debilidad. Al final de cuentas, el dicho lo dice a la perfección. "El que mucho abarca, poco aprieta."

Jones, quien en sus primeras dos temporadas no encontró una posición fija, no obtuvo el progreso que necesitaba. Y una vez que en el 2017 el equipo se comprometió a darle una posición fija, dándole el trabajo de profundo (safety). 

5 Players Cowboys Could put on the Trade Market

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

Lamentablemente para Jones, debido a problemas contra el juego terrestre y de tackleo, se demostró que jugar con él dentro de la caja, no era la respuesta para Dallas.

Ahora, con la llegada del ex-coordinador defensivo de los Seattle Seahawks y uno de los creadores fundamentales de la entonces llamada "Legion of Boom", Kris Richard, la carrera de Byron Jones cuenta con otra oportunidad y una que podría llevar al jugador de tercer año a finalmente convertirse en un titular de primer nivel.

Tras la llegada de Richard a Dallas, se anunció que Jones se convertiría en un cornerback de tiempo completo para los Cowboys con la esperanza de que este encontrará por fin un lugar donde quedarse.

Probablemente, ambos de los novatos del 2017 Chidobe Awuzie y Jourdan Lewis lograrán quedarse con los dos mejores trabajos en la posición, pero el equipo debe estar contando con que Byron Jones se gané su lugar por encima de Anthony Brown y se establezca como uno de los tres cornerbacks titulares.

"Prototipo. Atleta fantástico, altura genial, tamaño, longitud. Todo está ahí. Tiene una gran actitud. Ha trabajado muy duro desde el día 1. Estoy emocionado de estar a su alrededor." Kris Richard hablando de Byron Jones como un CB.

Los Cowboys tienen esperanzas en Byron Jones, y lo demostraron decidiendo recoger la opción de quinto año en su contrato, asegurándolo hasta la temporada del 2019. Sin duda alguna, una de las razones principales por las cuales el equipo está siendo tan optimista respecto a Jones, es la llegada de Kris Richard.

Con Rod Marinelli cumpliendo 69 años en Julio y bastantes rumores de que consideró el retiro al finalizar la temporada del 2017, el futuro de Kris Richard en Dallas parece prometedor. Tiene todo el sentido del mundo verlo como el coordinador defensivo del equipo en el 2019.

Quizá suene disparatado, pero una mala temporada en el 2018 podría conseguir que Jason Garrett sea despedido. A pesar de que los fans no quieren una mala temporada, si llegara a ocurrir y hay un cambio de head coach para los Cowboys, Kris Richard será un nombre en consideración. Al menos, debería serlo.

Pero por ahora, Richard tiene que enfocarse en replicar el éxito que tuvo defensivamente en Seattle para llevar a la unidad de los Cowboys al siguiente nivel. Byron Jones podría ser una pieza clave en su misión.

¿Será este el año para Byron Jones?

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: La Llegada de Kris Richard, ¿La Salvación de Byron Jones?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Could New Additions Cause Trouble For Backup RB Rod Smith?

Brian Martin

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Will New Additions Cause Trouble For Backup RB Rod Smith?

The Dallas Cowboys will be adding a couple of new faces at the running back position in 2018, but it shouldn't really have much impact on Ezekiel Elliott's spot atop the RB depth chart. The person it could spell trouble for is Elliott's expected backup, Rod Smith.

Last year Rod Smith finally received an opportunity to prove himself while Ezekiel Elliott was out serving his suspension. Smith proved to be an effective weapon as both a runner and as a receiver in the passing game. He did so well in fact that many have already anointed him as the primary backup heading into the 2018 season.

Rod Smith will absolutely be given every opportunity to prove once again he is the best man for the job to backup Zeke, but there are also some new additions coming in who could possibly challenge for that RB2 role.

Tavon Austin

Dallas Cowboys RB/WR Tavon Austin

Tavon Austin, who the Dallas Cowboys acquired via trade with the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL Draft, is expected to be utilized as both a wide receiver and running back this year. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has described him as a "web-back" and said that Austin is expected to be utilized in a variety of different ways.

Unfortunately for Rod Smith, that could mean that Tavon Austin cuts into some of the touches Smith could have received. Austin may not have Smith's size or physicality, but his speed and elusiveness is something truly lacking right now on the Cowboys offense.

But, Tavon Austin isn't the only new face who could cause trouble for Rod Smith. The Dallas Cowboys decided to close out the 2018 NFL Draft by selecting RB Bo Scarbrough, a well-known National Champion, formally with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Bo Scarbrough

Dallas Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough

Bo Scarbrough is more of the old school running back we used to see in the NFL. He is a one cut downhill physical runner, who looks to punish any defender unfortunate enough to get in his way.

Scarbrough and Rod Smith are both bigger backs, but Smith just doesn't play with the same kind of physicality, despite what his size would suggest. Scarbrough could form a formative one-two punch paired with Ezekiel Elliott and together they could wear down opposing defenses.

If you're a fan of Rod Smith, this is certainly a little bit disheartening. He has had to scratch and claw for every opportunity he has received and just when it looks like he has arrived, he may have to prove himself once more.

Fortunately, I think Rod Smith is still the right man for the job to be Zeke's primary backup. He is a better all-around RB then either Tavon Austin or Bo Scarbrough and has the advantage of having the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates.

I'm sure Tavon Austin and Bo Scarborough may steal a few touches from Rod Smith here and there in 2018, but I still expect him to be the RB2 this year. Luckily, all of this talk means next to nothing since Ezekiel Elliott is back and will only come off the field for a breather.

Lookout NFL, Zeke is back and he is hungry!!!

Do you think Rod Smith will be the primary RB backup in 2018?


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