The only certainty right now at running back for the 2019 Dallas Cowboys is that rookie Tony Pollard is an exciting prospect. We don’t know yet if Ezekiel Elliott will end his holdout and rejoin the team for the season opener, or who will emerge from the various options to join Zeke and Pollard and the roster as the team’s third RB.
There are plenty of other articles dedicated to Elliott’s contract situation, so let’s focus on that #3 position for a bit. Who among Alfred Morris, Darius Jackson, Jordan Chunn, or Mike Weber has really distanced himself at all from the pack?
The stats so far from the preseason really tell the tale:
- Jordan Chunn (2 games)
- 6 carries, 22 yards
- 4 catches, 12 yards
- Darius Jackson (2 games)
- 9 carries, 21 yards
- 3 catches, 21 yards
- Alfred Morris (1 game)
- 3 carries, 6 yards
- Mike Weber (2 games)
- 12 carries, 30 yards
- 2 catches, -5 yards
Of course, we fully admit that none of these guys have been able to enjoy blocking from the team’s top offensive linemen. That plays a major factor in their evaluations.
But given they all have the same dilemma, that muddies the waters when trying to determine who deserves a roster spot. If there’s no clear superiority in performance or perceived potential, then the decision could come down to other x-factors.
The biggest x-factor will likely be special teams. We’ve seen Darius Jackson get looks as a kick returner this preseason, but that may only be because Tony Pollard is currently working as the starting RB. Dallas may be planning to use Pollard in the KR role, where he excelled in college, come September.
Running backs can also make their bones on special teams by excelling in the coverage units. That was how Phillip Tanner spent three years with the Cowboys from 2011-2013; perhaps one of these guys will earn his keep the same way.
If contracts are a factor, Mike Weber has four years on a cheap rookie deal that could help him stick around. He also is the only rookie of the bunch, so Dallas could decide that there’s more room for growth and development with Weber than their other options.
On the other end of the experience spectrum, Alfred Morris may still be getting back in the groove after re-joining the Cowboys just a few weeks ago. Dallas may decide they want to hang on to Morris for reliability if they don’t see much potential in the younger prospects.
One idea I’ve seen floated is that Dallas could use Fullback Jamize Olawale as their emergency third RB. He has the offensive skills to get through a game, and then they could call Jackson, Weber, or someone else off the practice squad the following week.
While some parts of the Cowboys’ 2019 roster are already clearly decided, the running back position is one of the murkiest right now for projections. Hopefully, one of these players will put in some standout performances the next few weeks and make the decision easier.