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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 Rico Dowdle, Malik Davis, and Aaron Shampklin 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 running back.

    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?

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    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.

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    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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    lonewolfz28

    How they see KaVontae Turpin could play a big part in this. If he shows out as a KR/PR, that decreases Rico Dowdle’s value. Factor in his injury history, and Rico could be cut. If so, he’d likely make it to the PS, so not as much of a loss as an insurance stash. Rico is also the most like Tony Pollard of the backups. If they feel they can re-sign Pollard and release Zeke as a cap savings, does that make Dowdle redundant for next season or a valued insurance policy?

    None of these guys are similar to Zeke, not in size, playing style, or ability as a pass protector or receiver. That could force their hand a bit in whether to keep Zeke around next season. That would be to Dowdle’s favor, unless they just plan to push the reset button on the RB position using the 2023 free agency or draft.

    Personally, I’d like to see them stash Dowdle, use Turpin on jet sweeps and occasionally lined up in the backfield with Zeke, then re-sign Pollard if reasonable and draft a replacement for Zeke in the 2nd or later. If Pollard can’t be re-signed for whatever reason, they’d still have Dowdle and Turpin as partial substitutes.

    lonewolfz28

    LOL. Yup, glad everyone got a chance to see what I saw in the USFL. I especially liked the way he juked the first guy almost out of his shoes.

    Turpin also got 7 yards on his one touch (jet sweep) on offense. I really want to see them get him involved as a receiver, too. Hopefully without the ball being 2+ feet over his head this time.

    Malik Davis had another excellent game as well. Dowdle looks good, but Davis looks better to me. Davis also had a nice kick return (32yds). Dowdle better stay healthy or Davis will take his spot.