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Interesting Factors in Battle for 3rd RB Spot

While the came up short in their first game their running backs certainly weren't to blame. As , , and continue battling for a roster spot, a few key factors will go a long way to deciding who makes the team.

All three of these RB hopefuls looked good in Denver. Dowdle, who missed last year with a hip , restored confidence in his health and potential. He was decisive with his running lanes and created extra yards against the Broncos' primary backups.

Malik Davis and Aaron Shampklin, both undrafted rookies, also shined with their carries. Davis led the team with 51 rushing yards on just eight carries. Shampklin added 32 yards on seven carries; everyone looked effective with their opportunities.

More carries are on the way tonight as the Cowboys meet the Chargers in Los Angeles. With not playing in preseason games and likely getting limited work at the most, the guys fighting for jobs should get a decent workload in these last two games to help management make their decision.

Is it a simple matter of the best ball carrier winning the job? That's certainly a big factor, but the RB3 role generally comes with things that Zeke and Pollard don't have to be as concerned with.

are a huge issue for these contenders. Barring injury, you may not see these guys at all on outside of garbage time or a meaningless regular-season finale.

Back in 2019, Pollard's rookie season, Dallas didn't even keep a third RB but just had Tony, Zeke, and at . Olawale had enough ability as a rusher and receiver to be the emergency RB3, but his standout work on special teams was a big part of the equation.

This is one area where Davis and Shampklin are going to have put in some work to upstage Dowdle. Rico established himself as a versatile asset in 2020 both in coverage units and as a . He was almost guaranteed to make last year's roster before the injury.

Ezekiel Elliott & Tony Pollard Named Top 5 RB Duo
Dallas Cowboys RBs Ezekiel Elliott & Tony Pollard

However, unlike in past years, there's a new element in this conversation. Now we're looking at 2023 and the possibility of major personnel changes at .

Tony Pollard's contract expires after this year. And while Ezekiel Elliott still has four years left on his deal after this one, talk that he could be a cap casualty next is already rampant.

If the Cowboys are considering life without Zeke and/or Pollard in 2023 and beyond, that may change how they assess these backup options. It could add more weight to someone's offensive skills over special teams; potentially welcome news to a guy like Malik Davis.

Even if Dallas plans to stick with one of their current star running backs the other will likely be gone next year. Does that mean Davis, Dowdle, and Shampklin are auditioning for a shot at RB2 in the future?

Granted, future draft picks or could also fill the needs. But if the Cowboys can find a contributor from the undrafted ranks then that generally helps the for several seasons.

Tonight in Los Angeles will provide another glimpse of our running back prospects. Will any of them take a dramatic step forward in the competition? That's one of the many areas of intrigue as this preseason continues.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
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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