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Cowboys Should Consider Trading for Steelers’ RB Jaylen Samuels

The Dallas Cowboys are pretty set at the top of their running back group with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. That 1-2 punch proved to be dynamic in 2019 and should have similar results in 2020. However, when you look at the running back depth chart, the Cowboys don’t have much else going for them.

Jamize Olawale opted out of the season due to COVID-19, and the rest of the players are undrafted free agents. The Dallas Cowboys have had good luck with undrafted free agents in the past, but they’re far from a guarantee. Though the Cowboys may not need a fullback, if they decided to keep one, the only option right now is Sewo Olinilua.

As training camp goes along and teams eventually have to cut down to their final 53, there’s one name the Dallas Cowboys should consider making a trade for: Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Jaylen Samuels.

Ed Bouchette, who covers the Steelers for The Athletic, recently did a mailbag where he discussed the running back depth chart. Bouchette suggested that Samuels may not make the Steelers final 53-man roster.

“That assumes they keep four. We know they’re keeping fullback Derek Watt and they have sometimes kept three halfbacks, sometimes four. If they keep four, it comes down to Jaylen Samuels vs. Kerrith Whyte. In my pre-camp roster prediction of 53, I chose Whyte because of his speed and what he did in a short time with them last season. However, you can make a case for Samuels as possibly serving as their third tight end, a position he played at NC State, albeit not in a traditional sense. I’ll stick with Whyte as No. 4.”

Ed Bouchette, The Athletic

If Samuels is on the roster bubble with the Steelers as Bouchette suggests, the Dallas Cowboys need to make a phone call.

Samuels is a versatile running back who played some tight end in college and could be used in an H-Back role. He has the hands to be a weapon out of the backfield and the running ability to carry the football as well.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Game Rush Rush Rush Rush Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Tota Tota
Year G Rush Yds TD 1D Tgt Rec Yds TD 1D Ctch% Y/Tgt Touch Y/Tch
2018 14 56 256 0 13 29 26 199 3 10 89.7% 6.9 82 5.5
2019 14 66 175 1 9 57 47 305 1 19 82.5% 5.4 113 4.2
Care 28 122 431 1 22 86 73 504 4 29 84.9% 195 4.8
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/10/2020.

Though he only averaged 3.5 yards per attempt over his two seasons with the Steelers, he rushed for 22 first downs on his 122 carries. He was more of a threat in the passing game, where he caught 77 passes over the last two seasons on 86 targets. Though he only averaged 6.9 yards per reception, he was reliable, catching 84.9% of his targets.

Last season as the Steelers dealt with injuries to James Conner, Samuels racked up 113 touches and averaged 4.8 yards per touch and scored two touchdowns.

Last season, Jaylen Samuels showed off his versatility by lining up 56 times in the slot and out wide as a wide receiver. Though the majority of his snaps came as a running back (291), Samuels can flex out of the backfield to create matchup problems. The Steelers even used him at quarterback in the wildcat for 15 snaps in 2019 when they were struggling for production on offense.

He wouldn’t be a full-time answer at fullback, but as Jamize Olawale only averaged seven offensive snaps per game over the last couple of years at fullback, the Cowboys could mix and match who they use at fullback to achieve the same deployment rate.

Samuels is only scheduled to count $814,000 and $984,000 against the salary cap over the next two seasons. In trade compensation, it wouldn’t cost the Cowboys much to acquire the versatile running back from the Steelers. If you recall, the Cowboys sent a fifth-round draft pick to the Raiders for Olawale and a sixth-round pick. By that point, Olawale had already been in the league for six seasons.

If Jaylen Samuels is on the outside looking in for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’d likely be happy to receive a seventh-round pick or a compensatory sixth-round pick in a trade.

Because of the relative inexperience on the running back depth chart and the lack of pass catchers on the tight end depth chart, the Cowboys could use a player like Jaylen Samuels to round out their offense. His versatility to line up across the formation and his ability as a receiver make him an interesting chess piece that Kellen Moore could use in a variety of ways.

What do you think?

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John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. Jaylen would be a nice addition to the team. I also would like to see what UDFA Rico Dowdle has to offer at the next level He looked very good at the University of South Carolina. Great cutting ability, good speed, and finishes his runs very strongly.

    • Dowdle is an intriguing prospect and as things stand now, he likely makes the roster. Jaylen would be an interesting piece to include as well since he can help you in several alignments.

  2. This article really addresses the question at running back but it applies to tight end and receiver backup positions as well in that it is unclear what role those players will have. The Boys have starting players at those positions but behind them ,the current backups seem to serve no real purpose. Last season, the backups were horrid special teams players while also being mostly useless if called on to play as substitutes on offense.
    What the coaches need to do is accept special teams as a real unit. Designate key special teams players as special teams. Make special teams an actual position. That concept separates special teams from the true position backups. This idea reverses the traditional concept in that the core special teams players have special teams as their designated position and their backup role is as a running back, receiver, tight end.
    Then, true position backups can be chosen based on their ability to play in the offense . The Garrett way was the opposite. Garrett chose position backups based on how they could be as special teams players and we all saw that left Dallas with the worst special teams in football and with backups who could not play their position…the worst of both worlds.
    To be honest, my ‘idea’ is not new as Tom Landry had players like Bill Bates who was exactly what I am discussing. Bates played special teams as his position. He became a star with that position role and Dallas dominated special teams during his era.
    Dominate special teams in 2020 and the wins will come.

    • I think we’ve seen that to some extent with CJ Goodwin, the cornerback who is pretty much a special teams player only and why he’ll likely still be with the roster.

      Under Fassell, it’s anticipated that the Cowboys will use more defensive backs and linebackers on STs than wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. Which makes sense to me because who are the people use to tackling, your defensive players.

  3. Why would you trade for a guy that would more than likely never see the field aside from STs and would cost $1M against the cap and could ultimately get off the waiver wire or sign off Pittsburgh s PS? RIDICULOUS!

      • Guys like him are a dime a dozen after final cuts. To trade away anything and spend more than the vet minimum would be a waste if resources. Add to that, if he is one the roster week 1 his salary becomes guaranteed. Plus, Fassell prefers defensive guys to offensive players on STs. Also, based upon profiles Olanilua sports the same skill set, is cheaper and is a true fullback.

  4. As a steeler fan..Samuels is definitely a good versatile piece for any offense..he just doesn’t fit with our depth..we already have Conner (starter) and then they just drafted the kid out of Maryland who ran all over Ohio State a couple seasons back and then Kerrith White on top of that and also..I doubt we’re leaning on the run this year with Ben bring back under center

  5. The cowboys already have Zeke and Pollard. They don’t need to waste precious draft capital on another running back.

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