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Rod Smith is Making Running Back Competition Behind Him Less Pivotal

Sean Martin

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Rod Smith is Making Running Back Competition Behind Him Less Important
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

If one thing is known about the Cowboys roster building ideology, it's that their commitment to the running game is unwavering. It shouldn't come as a surprise when this team keeps as many as three running backs, Fullback Jamize Olawale, three tight ends, and plenty of depth on the offensive line (although this may have to come from elsewhere).

There are certainly good candidates for the Cowboys third running back spot. Rookie Bo Scarbrough has yet to make a flash on special teams or in the passing game, which he may still have to in making the roster, but the Alabama product has carried his signature, hard running style into Dallas.

If the Cowboys haven't backed down from their idea of hammering Scarbrough into defenses that have already dealt with a steady dose of Ezekiel Elliott, this is looking like a potentially sound strategy through two preseason games.

Running Back Darius Jackson is also back with the team, a sixth round draft pick in 2016 by the Cowboys. Jackson carried six times against the Bengals for 42 yards, showing glimpses of the big play running back that Dallas never worked into their offense during his rookie season.

Whether or not that will change in 2018 is becoming less likely thanks to the efforts of Running Back Rod Smith. In limited opportunities, Smith proved himself as a capable backup to Elliott last season, and has expanded on this role so far in the preseason.

Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan is looking to get all of his running backs involved as much as possible, particularly as pass catchers. Smith has looked exceptionally smooth catching the football, churning out yards with some open field elusiveness.

As a runner, Smith is also showing the power to fight for tough yards that will make it hard to take the Ohio State product off the field.

In the two seasons they've been led by another Buckeye in the backfield, the Cowboys have handed the ball off to their backs 839 times. With 564 of these carries going to Elliott (67%), there isn't much room for a third running back to fill in the remaining snaps, especially with Smith's 55 carries counting for 13% of the rushing offense a year ago.

Sure, the Cowboys are a better team thanks to their ability to go beyond Elliott and Smith to find production at running back. A perceived competition for the complimentary role to Elliott has not manifested though.

Rod Smith absolutely deserves a large role in the Cowboys offense, well beyond what both Jackson and Scarbrough are ready to contribute. Should this mean that only one makes the roster, the Cowboys should be fine with their decision.

Scarbrough saw almost half of the team's special teams snaps in the preseason opener, but only five against the Bengals. Jackson has seen just 15 through two games total.

Underappreciated for his role on special teams, which was always going to make him a roster lock under new ST Coordinator Keith O'Quinn, Smith has not had the high volume of snaps here, but is likely being saved as a starter.

Smith played an average of 65% of the Cowboys special teams snaps in 2017.

The Dallas Cowboys running back tandem of Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith is the engine prepared to take this team as far as they want to go. Any other of the young backs they decide to keep can be looked at as upgrades for later in the season, as both Jackson and Scarbrough still require a lot of development.

Both will be featured heavily in the team's remaining preseason games, but with Dak Prescott likely shut down until the season opener, and the team failing to field the quality OL depth they expected, it's more mop-up duty than audition time for the Cowboys stable of backs.

Tell us what you think about "Rod Smith is Making Running Back Competition Behind Him Less Pivotal" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.

While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.

I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.

Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.

So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.

"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola

Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.

It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.

And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.



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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

Matthew Lenix

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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.

The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.

Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.

2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.

Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.

He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.

If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.

He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.



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Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Le Espera a Connor McGovern?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Select OL Connor McGovern With 90th Pick

El pasado abril, los Dallas Cowboys nos sorprendieron más de una vez durante el NFL Draft 2019. Desde la segunda ronda, sus selecciones no fueron malas, pero nos dejaron con una ceja arriba. La más sorprendente tomó lugar en la tercera ronda, cuando se anunció el nombre de un guardia ofensivo proveniente de la universidad de Penn State, Connor McGovern.

La selección no fue sorprendente por el nivel del jugador. Durante su carrera colegial, McGovern demostró ser un muy buen liniero ofensivo interior y seguramente merecía salir dentro de las primeras tres rondas.

Sin embargo, la línea ofensiva era una unidad que el equipo no necesitaba atender tan pronto. Después de todo, los Cowboys son reconocidos por tener una de las mejores líneas ofensivas en toda la NFL. Hay algunas dudas debido a lesiones o ausencias con las que el equipo ha tenido que lidiar, pero los titulares son muy buenos. Liderados por Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick y Zack Martin, esta unidad no le pide nada a nadie.

Y aún así en aquella ocasión, los Cowboys anotaron el nombre de Connor McGovern en la tarjeta que entregaron en la tercera ronda. Se dice que el equipo realmente ve mucho potencial en él y que era su mejor jugador disponible en ese momento. Todos los equipos en la liga tienen filosofías diferentes, pero si los Cowboys decidieron ir por el mejor jugador en vez de atender una necesidad, es una decisión más que válida.

Position Flex of Connor Williams, Connor McGovern Gives the Cowboys Options 1

Pero ahora la pregunta es, ¿cómo y cuándo se utilizará a McGovern? La posición queda más que clara. McGovern tomará el lugar de guardia izquierdo ya que el otro lado está más que cubierto por el mejor guardia derecho en la NFL, Zack Martin. La mejor pregunta es ¿cuándo?

Como sabrán, todo parece indicar que al comenzar la temporada del 2019, McGovern estará en la banca y no en la alineación titular. El pick de segunda ronda del año pasado es el favorito a ser el titular. Connor Williams no tuvo el mejor inicio a su carrera, pero fue mejorando conforme avanzó la temporada y se vio mucho mejor después del despido del ex-coach de línea ofensiva Paul Alexander.

De una manera u otra, la incertidumbre continúa dentro de la unidad. Muchos especulan sobre lo que podría pasar en el futuro. El tackle La'el Collins solo está bajo contrato por el 2019 y no ha demostrado lo suficiente para justificar un enorme contrato a largo plazo. No ha jugado mal, pero ¿cuánto pedirá para quedarse en Dallas?

Cuando llegue el momento, el equipo tendrá que tomar una decisión depende de la actuación de Collins en el emparrillado la próxima temporada. ¿Pagarle a Collins? ¿O hacer un movimiento fuerte en la línea ofensiva? Recordemos que este equipo tiene espacio en el tope salarial ahora, pero este se irá rápidamente con futuras extensiones a jugadores clave como Dak Prescott.

Sabemos que Connor Williams tiene lo necesario para jugar como tackle. Una opción será mover a Williams al extremo derecho y dejar que McGovern tomé su lugar en el interior de la línea ofensiva.

Quizá suene problemático mover tantas piezas, pero tendría sentido financieramente. McGovern y Williams seguirían en contratos de novato mientras que Collins pedirá una buena paga al terminar este año.

Pase lo que pase, el futuro próximo de Connor McGovern dependerá de muchos factores ajenos a él mismo. Su talento le da lo necesario para jugar desde su primer año en la liga, pero tendrá que recibir la oportunidad.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Le Espera a Connor McGovern?" 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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