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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Running Back

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott

For three seasons now, Ezekiel Elliott has been the best runner in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys will continue to lean on him in 2019, but the rest of the running back depth chart could use some work this offseason.

Along with Zeke's backups, the fullback position may also need to be addressed. But given how little Jamize Olawale was used last year, Dallas might look at combining some of the roles going forward.

We can't just skip Elliott and go to these other issues, though. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract, putting some big decisions in front of the Cowboys as far as a long-term extension or whether or not to exercise the fifth-year option.

The latter decision must be made soon. The deadline for fifth-year options on the class of 2016 is May 3rd of this year. We now know that the amount for Zeke would be about $9 million for 2020. He would then become an unrestricted free agent in 2021, barring any other contract extension.

Dallas will almost certainly exercise that option. It's basically a discounted franchise tag for them, which is one of the team-friendly aspects of using a first-round draft pick. It also secures Zeke's rights for two more years and gives the team some leverage in any long-term negotiations.

What's more, with Elliott's 2019 cap hit already at $7.94 million, that fifth-year amount won't be any big blow to the 2020 salary cap.

Whatever happens here, we know for sure that Ezekiel Elliott will once again be the featured player in the Cowboys' offense this season. Now let's get to the moving parts.

Dallas Cowboys Need More From RB Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith

After over three seasons with Dallas, Rod Smith is about to become an unrestricted free agent. He's been a solid backup for Zeke and a standout special teams player. Still just 27, Smith should be a useful addition to someone's roster.

Perhaps that roster should be the Cowboys. Smith had added value for Dallas given his system experience, plus he has the versatility to play some fullback.

Last season's fullback, Olawale, played on less than 11% of the team's total offensive snaps. Is that usage rate really worth keeping a dedicated FB on the roster?

In past years, we've seen Dallas utilize one of its tight ends as a backfield blocker. They could do the same with one of their backup RBs, giving them more total value out of a single roster spot.


If the Cowboys like Rod's blocking ability enough then perhaps he can be that guy. However, it is worth nothing that he was beaten out by Kevin Smith for the FB role back in 2016. Perhaps blocking was the issue then.

The point here is that if Rod Smith or some other free agent can provide RB depth while also covering those relatively few snaps at FB, that would be a great use of resources for Dallas going forward.

Will RB Darius Jackson Stick With Cowboys Second Time Around? 1

Dallas Cowboys RB Darius Jackson (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

One guy hoping to finally stick around is Darius Jackson, who's on his third stint with the Cowboys after being a sixth-round pick in 2016. Other teams have claimed him off waivers and signed him off the practice squad over the last three years, but Dallas keep bringing him back.

Darius has the speed to do some damage with clear running lanes. Hopefully, the Cowboys getting Travis Frederick pack and seeing some second-year growth from Connor Williams will provide just that. It could increase Jackson's value to them as a reserve.

One issue for guys like Rod or Darius will be a loaded free agent market for running backs, giving Dallas plenty of options with more experience and/or upside.

As hard as it is to take a talent like Zeke off the field, it may be time for the Cowboys to start considering spreading out his workload a little. If they truly plan on a long-term relationship with Elliott then they risk running his wheels off at his current number of carries.

Making an investment in a talented number-two back, either through free agency or the draft, would make sense if Dallas intends to keep Zeke beyond 2021.

Not only will it help save some wear and tear on Elliott, but there comes a point that you have to be worried about a serious injury. Even the most durable players can have that one bad hit, and nobody wants to see this offense trying to function without a solid running game.

So even though Ezekiel Elliott commands the heavy focus, and looks to be here at least the next two seasons, the Cowboys still clearly have some work to do at running back. They need to figure out the backup spot this offseason, as well as the fullback role, and make sure they're covered for all situations.

They've put far too much emphasis on the running game to ever take it lightly.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Game Notes

Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Need More From Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton 1

Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.

However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.

Taco Charlton

That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.


With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.

One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.

Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.

Tell me what you think about "Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?

Jess Haynie

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Taryn Christion

Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?

Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.

Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.

Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.

Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.


Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.

An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.

Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.

No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.

But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.


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Game Notes

HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game

Matthew Lenix

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HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game 1

The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.

The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.

Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.

The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.

Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.


Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.

Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.

Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.


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