Connect with us

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Work Out RBs Ronnie Hillman, Denard Robinson Before Oxnard

Sean Martin



Cowboys Work Out RBs Ronnie Hillman, Denard Robinson Before Oxnard

Perhaps some good news is on the way for the Dallas Cowboys when it comes to their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, with yesterday's news that the NFL's investigation of him has concluded. This did not stop the Cowboys from preparing for a possible Elliott suspension to start the 2017 season by working out two experienced running backs prior to departing for Oxnard, California and training camp.

Of course, Elliott will be eligible to practice with the team through camp, which means we are not far off at all from Cowboys Nation being able to at least partially distract themselves from any off-field issues by watching Zeke do his thing as 2016's league rushing champion.

With five preseason games and a foreseen even larger role for Elliott out of the backfield this season though, adding bodies to take reps at RB is a good all around idea for the Dallas Cowboys right now. Should Ezekiel miss any time, it is likely that Darren McFadden will get the first crack at the starting job - making his training camp workload something to monitor closely on the heel of these moves as well.

Cowboys Work Out RBs Ronnie Hillman, Denard Robinson Before Oxnard 2

RB Ronnie Hillman

The more distinguished back that Dallas gave a look this week is Ronnie Hillman, a five-year pro that began with the Denver Broncos as their third round pick of 2012. Never truly finding his footing in a crowded Denver backfield, Hillman's best season came two years ago with 207 carries for 863 yards and seven scores in 2015.

Ronnie Hillman warranted a look from the Vikings following Adrian Peterson's injury this season, signed by Minnesota only to appear in five games and carry the ball 18 times. He then bounced to the Chargers for three games.

Field Yates on Twitter

Source: in addition to Denard Robinson, the Cowboys worked out RB Ronnie Hillman on Thursday.

One could certainly make the argument that Hillman is well-rested in his approach to return for 2017, but the 25-year-old back has not generated much interest outside of the Cowboys looking to now either resurrect his career (as they did with Darren McFadden) or cover themselves the best they can in the case of an Elliott suspension.

Cowboys Work Out RBs Ronnie Hillman, Denard Robinson Before Oxnard 1

RB Denard Robinson (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The flashier of the two offensive weapons the Cowboys brought in is a player that was once literally listed by his Jacksonville Jaguars as just that - offensive weapon Denard Robinson. A dynamic rushing QB in his college career at Michigan, Robinson settled in with the Jaguars in 2013, being drafted in the fifth round.

A year later, Robinson had a brief moment in the NFL spotlight by ripping off 582 yards on 135 carries over 13 games. He scored on a 32 yard run against the Cowboys in London.

As is the case with Hillman however, Robinson's best days as a productive back seem to be behind him. Appearing in 12 games in 2016, Robinson carried the ball just 37 times for 127 yards and added a measly three receptions.

The Cowboys did let Lance Dunbar leave this offseason in free agency, no longer needing his seldom available services as the offense's "change of pace' or receiving back. If the team was committed to keeping a player with Dunbar's role on the roster they would have addressed RB in the draft and likely never select WR Ryan Switzer who can comfortably make plays out of the backfield as a HS running back.

Instead, the looks that both Denard Robinson and Ronnie Hillman were given by the Cowboys are hard to justify the timing of if not for information that is on the horizon regarding their bell cow Ezekiel Elliott.

Cowboys Work Out RBs Ronnie Hillman, Denard Robinson Before Oxnard 3

Dallas Cowboys' Running Backs Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris should remain the Cowboys' primary backup running backs, meaning we'll see plenty of them in practice starting on Monday, but the depth behind these two could be changing thanks to some unfortunate circumstances.

Who will be this year's "pet cat" running back that absolutely earns a roster spot with some flash plays over the preseason?

Harmlessly, this player was likely going to be UDFA Jahad Thomas by default, as the opportunity for him to come back from injuries that limited him in OTAs and make an impact will be there.

Now, the 2017 answer to this annual question could be a pretty well-known commodity. Inside The Star will keep you updated with the Cowboys' roster moves should Robinson or Hillman join America's Team.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Work Out RBs Ronnie Hillman, Denard Robinson Before Oxnard" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

  • John Williams

    I would definitely prefer Hillman of the two. He’s had the more productive career, though has been very unproductive since an injury sidelined him in Miami. I think he is now two years removed from the knee injury and could be a great third down asset. Reminds me a lot of McFadden actually.

    Robinson would be more of a Dunbar back, though I don’t think that role is necessary on a team that is looking to go more empty backfield, will utilize Zeke in the passing game more, has McFadden as a solid passing down option, and can utilize former running back Ryan Switzer there as well.

    They have options, imo, and that doesn’t even begin to cover what they might have in Jahad Thomas.

  • John Williams

    But, how fun could a double reverse be with Robinson and Dez, who have shown they can both throw the football.

Player News

Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson

Jess Haynie



Deonte Thompson

The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.

Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.

Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.

Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.

For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.

Continue Reading

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys: How “Position-Flex” Has Handcuffed The 2015 Draft Class

Kevin Brady



Byron Jones

Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have placed a high level of importance on "position flex." They've drafted Swiss-Army knife players which could be moved around to different positions on the field.

By drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods last year, as well as Byron Jones in 2015, the Cowboys have tried to find these versatile players who can be used in multiple ways.

While this seems great on paper, this strategy has handcuffed the majority of their 2015 Draft Class, and is a key reason why the Cowboys seem to be in such a tough spot.

Byron Jones

The Cowboys' first round pick in 2015, Byron Jones, quickly became a favorite of mine during his rookie season. Incredibly athletic, long, and skilled in coverage, Jones was able to be both a fantastic cover cornerback and a solid middle-of-the-field safety due to his range.

Due to both injuries to his teammates, and Jones' own versatility, the Cowboys coaching staff couldn't keep Jones in just one spot. Once they discovered how great he was in man coverage against tight ends, they became enamored with trying to play him in the box.

Once in the box, Jones' struggles as a run defender were highlighted, and both the organization and the fans soured on him quickly.

Now it is rumored that Byron Jones will be moving back to cornerback full time. And while I do hope this is the case, the fact that he is in year four, and the Cowboys haven't been able to find their first round pick a permanent home is a huge indictment on their ability to evaluate and develop talent.

Chaz Green

Okay, hear me out.

The former third round pick of the 2015 Draft was brought in to be the swing tackle for the Cowboys his rookie year. Mainly due to injuries, Green did not see the field for much of his first two seasons. When he did fill in for Tyron Smith at left tackle in 2016, however, Green was very effective.

Of course, Chaz Green's last appearance with the Cowboys was ugly, giving up a plethora of sacks against the Atlanta Falcons. But Dallas might've made their own bed with Green during the beginning of the 2017 season, when they attempted to move him to left guard full time.

Instead of getting the increased work at tackle, and continuing to work as the swing tackle for the team in case of injury, Dallas started Green at left guard early on in the year. He struggled trying to move positions, and looked even worse when trying to move back to tackle.

Once again, the position flex bit the Cowboys right in the backside.

La'el Collins

It's 2018 and we are still talking about what position to play La'el Collins on the offensive line. And that is solely on the coaching staff and front office, not Collins.

Collins was brought in as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but was widely regarded as a first round pick heading into that draft. Though he started at left tackle at LSU, Dallas shifted Collins inside to left guard in 2015. After taking over for Ronald Leary as the starter, Collins produced highlight blocks week after week.

Injuries shortened his 2016 campaign, but heading into 2017 the Cowboys decided to shift him back out to right tackle. Despite some early struggles, Collins progressed nicely throughout the year and became a solid starting right tackle. Plus, he has the upside to become one of the top right tackles in the league.

Instead, it is now being rumored the Cowboys might move him back to guard for 2018. And with that news, I continue to pull my hair out over the position-flex decisions this coaching staff and front office like to make.

If the Cowboys want to get the most out of each draft class, and effectively develop their talent, they need to let those players actually develop, rather than move them around each season. Hopefully they now understand this, and allow both Byron Jones and La'el Collins to reach their full potential.

Continue Reading

Player News

Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.

The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.

Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.

A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.

Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Continue Reading

Reader Survey

Want to help make Inside The Star better?

We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.

> Take the survey now

Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).

Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here