We continue our 2020 training camp preview series with a look at the running back position. A key component for the Dallas Cowboys offense since 2014; how will Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard adjust to the new coaching staff and a possible shift to a more pass-focused offensive strategy?
Dallas doesn’t have any big questions to answer before Week One. Ezekiel Elliott is still their bell cow RB and Tony Pollard is emerging as a dangerous backup and roleplayer. They are already one of the best duos in the NFL and should only be better in 2020 with Pollard entering his second season.
Last year was a clear Batman & Robin relationship; Pollard was little more than Zeke’s sidekick and occasional hero. But as Dallas looks to preserve Elliott’s long-term health and take advantage of Tony’s skills as a receiver, could we see Pollard take on a greater role and become more of a true partner in the RB group?
Finding that balance is a great problem for Kellen Moore to have. But that’s the only debate with those two; Elliott and Pollard are the clear top two at RB and only injury will change that this season.
The Cowboys only had Zeke and Tony as true running backs on last year’s team. They had FB Jamize Olawale and WR Tavon Austin as emergency reserves at RB and never had to call on them. Both of those players are now gone; Austin wasn’t re-signed in free agency and Olawale recently opted out of the 2020 season.
Olawale’s absence opens the door wider for one of these young guys to make it. That will be the most intriguing aspect of the RB position in training camp.
Running Back Pre-Camp Rankings
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Tony Pollard
- Darius Anderson vs Rico Dowdle vs Sewo Olonilua
Whether it’s for the #3 spot on the RB depth chart or just a place on the practice squad, Dallas has three undrafted rookies battling for a job. Each brings a unique makeup and skill set to the competition.
Darius Anderson is more in the mold of Tony Pollard; a smaller receiving back and kick returner. While he could end up being the best player of the three, having a lesser version of Pollard may not be the best use of the roster spot. Dallas would probably prefer a more all-around back and someone who can assist as a blocker or tackler on special teams.
Rico Dowdle is that more well-rounded runner but offensive skills will only get him as far as the practice squad. To make the 53, Dowdle will likely have to earn his keep on special teams units the way past RBs such as Rod Smith and Phillip Tanner did.
Listed as a fullback on the official roster, Sewo Olonilua’s prospects got a lot better when Olawale opted out. He was a true ball carrier at TCU but did some lead blocking as well. Proving he can do that consistently on the NFL level will be vital to making the team.
Still, Dallas can find other options to replace Olawale’s limited snaps on offense. They could get a lead blocker from the TE position, use WR Noah Brown or Ventell Bryant in a H-back role, or just play more single-back formations.
Right now I like Olonilua to make the team over the others. As long as he can do something at fullback and special teams, or at least has potential to learn on the job, the versatility to cover tose duties and be an emergency RB3 will give Sewo real value.
In the end it will all come down to the next few weeks. While Sewo has the most to offer on paper, bad performance in camp could kill that advantage quickly. Darius Anderson probably has the toughest road to the roster, but all three have an opportunity depending on these August practices go.