The Dallas Cowboys were forced to carry four running backs on their 53-man roster to start the season due to the unknown availability of Ezekiel Elliott for the entire 2017 season. But luckily, Elliott's fate for the rest of the season may be determined as soon as sometime next week. That means the Cowboys could decide to finally cut ties with one of their veteran running backs, Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden, if Elliott avoids suspension this year.
I'm not trying to jump the gun here or anything, but I believe having Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden is an unneeded luxury, especially when roster spots are so valuable. This is even more true considering the fact David Irving will be returning from his four-game suspension after this week's matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Irving would be a welcomed addition on defense, but finding him a roster spot isn't going to be easy.
Hopefully we will know whether or not Ezekiel Elliott can play the remainder of the season before a roster spot is needed. If #21 is suspended though, Irving would likely take his roster spot, because Elliott would have to start serving his suspension immediately. But, if Elliott is cleared to play, I think Morris or McFadden's job security is in doubt.
Let's break this down a little bit further to determine whether or not the Dallas Cowboys should cut ties with Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden.
It was a complete shock that the Dallas Cowboys decided to go with Alfred Morris as the primary backup running back to Ezekiel Elliott to start the 2017 season. Nearly everybody thought that Darren McFadden was the surefire RB2, but supposedly the Cowboys coaching staff believed Morris outplayed him in preseason and in practices.
Alfred Morris may have suited up the first three weeks of the season as the RB2, but you wouldn't know it by his involvement on game day. To date, he has only four rushing attempts for 1 yard and a total of only nine offensive snaps. I doubt there's another backup running back in the entire NFL to play less snaps than Morris. To me, that signals a wasted roster spot.
The fact that Alfred Morris has been active every week of the 2017 season and Darren McFadden inactive might be the only thing we need to know in regards to how the coaching staff views the RB position. It's a scary thought to think Morris has outplayed McFadden the point where he's among the inactive's every week.
It may just be me, but that kind of indicates that if a roster spot was needed and it came down to Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden, the latter might be without a job sometime soon. Of course, we know that these types of roster moves typically comes down to who is making the most money. Unfortunately, that's not in McFadden's favor either. McFadden's cap hit in 2017 is $695,000, while Morris' is $2,137,500. Money speaks!
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All of this may come to nothing though. There is no way of determining whether or not the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff plans to cut ties with Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden anytime soon. It may make sense to me, but they obviously value their veteran RBs more than I do.
I personally think Rod Smith is capable of becoming the RB2 if Elliott is indeed able to play the entire 2017 season. He looked better than any of the RBs on the Cowboys roster, not named Ezekiel Elliott, in the preseason and off-season practices. But, he has never had to hold down such a significant role so far in his NFL career.
Regardless, a roster spot is soon to be needed and to me the running back position would be the one I target. Depth at the cornerback position is needed due to inexperience and injuries, and the same can be said about linebacker. It's doubtful that they cut anybody along the defensive line or just about anywhere on offense except RB. Wide receiver could be a possibility, but the youth the Cowboys currently have shows quite a bit of promise.
So, you can see why I believe Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden could be seeing their time with the Dallas Cowboys coming to an end. Who knows? Maybe the Cowboys decide they don't need either RB if Ezekiel Elliott remains available, but that's probably unlikely.
Do you have a preference between Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden?
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018
A groin injury sustained last week against Jacksonville won't send Tavon Austin to injured reserve, at least for now. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has elected to forego surgery at this time, giving him a chance to return to action in 2018.
There was concern that Austin could land on IR initially following the Jaguars game, but he sought a second opinion this week. It appears that this new information was enough for Tavon and the Cowboys to decide that surgery can wait.
Sounds like WR Tavon Austin will not have surgery at this time after getting a second opinion on his groin injury. He could miss a few weeks, however. #cowboyswire
Austin should miss this Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins. He has been the team's punt returner this season and a useful tool on offense, playing mostly receiver but also lining up the backfield at times.
Despite his limited opportunities, Tavon is tied with Cole Beasley for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns in 2018.
How long Austin will remain out is unknown at this time. After the Washington game, Dallas will have their bye week and then host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.
Both of these are games that the Cowboys, feeling good after a blowout victory over Jacksonville, should be able to win without Austin. But they would certainly like him back for the Week 10 road game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Tavon's absence, Cole Beasley will likely field punts. We may see more of Deonte Thompson in the speed routes that Austin ran on offense, though Dallas could also finally see what recently returned Brice Butler has to offer.
With an expiring contract this year, Tavon will likely want to get back soon and trying to improve his stock for the 2019 offseason. Hopefully, he can still have a positive impact on his value and the Cowboys season in the weeks ahead.
Terrance Williams: Details, Impact of 3-Game Suspension
Terrance Williams was already missing games on injured reserve, but now the Dallas Cowboys receivers is going to lose some money as well. Williams was finally hit with a three-game suspension by the NFL, starting immediately, for his public intoxication arrest last May.
Dallas placed Terrance on IR in Week 5 just a day before their game against the Houston Texans. Williams had been struggling with a foot issue since the offseason, which included a surgery that he hadn't fully recovered from.
Many were surprised that Williams wasn't suspended to start the season, given that his arrest occurred several months prior. But when charges were eventually dropped after Terrance took part in some required alcohol education courses, it appeared the league might be letting the issue go.
However, as Cowboys fans know all too well, Roger Goodell's NFL operates its own judicial system.
In Williams' case, the suspension will only result in lost game checks. Players still get paid when on IR, but Terrance will lose that amount of his $3.5 million base salary.
Because he can serve the suspension while injured, Terrance will still be eligible to be recalled from injured reserve in December after sitting the mandatory weeks.
The real issue for Williams now is how this event, and his general fall from grace in the Cowboys offense, will affect him in the next offseason.
Terrance is in just the second season of a four-year, $17 million contract he signed in 2017. If he's released after this year, Dallas would save $2.25 million of his scheduled $4.75 million cap hit in 2019.
Williams' cap hit isn't the issue by itself. That would be a bargain for a significant contributor in your offense, even if he was just the third receiver.
But Terrance appears to have fallen well below that spot on the depth chart. Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup are the top three receivers these days, and veteran Deonte Thompson has also been getting looks. Dallas also brought back Brice Butler a few weeks ago, though he hasn't really been worked in yet.
Not only that, but the Cowboys will have the option to recall Noah Brown from IR in just a few more weeks. He was one of their more intriguing young prospects prior to getting hurt.
Dallas could let Terrance come back next year to compete, hopefully with full health and less personal baggage. But after six seasons, they may be ready to move on to players with more room to grow.
For now, though, Terrance Williams is out of action and out some money. We'll see what the future holds.
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