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Will Rod Smith be Ezekiel Elliott’s Primary Backup in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

It's not always easy for undrafted free agents to work their way into a prominent role in the NFL, but that could be exactly what Rod Smith did with the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. He performed so well that he could now find himself in contention to be Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup in 2018, but will that be the case?

The all-important third season in the NFL is typically when teams find out exactly what they have in certain players. The 2017 season was Rod Smith's third year in the league and after scratching and clawing his way through his first two seasons, he seemed to finally blossom.

For Rod Smith, it all started in organized team activities (OTA's) and training camp practices. He started to string together several days of practice where he was catching the attention of the Cowboys coaching staff. He did so well in fact, he was given the opportunity to prove himself in preseason.

That was exactly the opportunity he was waiting for, and he seized the moment.

Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith

With the opportunity in hand, Rod Smith averaged 4.5 yards per carry in preseason and rushed for a total of 130 yards on 29 carries. He also added seven receptions for 57 receiving yards through the air. He did all this while still maintaining his role on special teams.

The Dallas Cowboys obviously saw enough of him to not only keep him on the 53-man roster, but activate him the entire season over Darren McFadden, a proven veteran.

The way some players perform in training camp and preseason doesn't always translate to when the games actually mean something in the regular season, but that wasn't the case for Rod Smith. The majority of the season he was third on the depth chart behind Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris, but opportunity would knock again for him when Elliott was slapped with a six-game suspension.

The Cowboys first went with Alfred Morris to handle the lions share of the carries in the running game, but they sprinkled in a little bit of Rod Smith along the way. Smith ended up looking like the better of the two and was rewarded by receiving more playing time.

Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith

The Cowboys seemed to like the versatility Rod Smith brought to the offense over the more proven and steady veteran Alfred Morris. He continued to receive more and more playing time as a result, and didn't disappoint with his performance.

He ended up averaging 4.2 yards per carry and rushed for 232 yards on 55 attempts and scored four touchdowns. Through the air, he hauled in 19 receptions for 202 yards and scored one touchdown. He did all this in mostly a backup role and only started one game in 2017.

With Ezekiel Elliott now expected to return as the main ballcarrier for the Cowboys and Alfred Morris becoming a free agent, Rod Smith has another opportunity in front of him to become the RB2 in 2018.

I think he is more than capable of handling the backup responsibilities. But, the Dallas Cowboys could very well look for someone who could provide a different skill set or be an upgrade through the draft or free agency.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Cowboys add another RB to create competition with Rod Smith to become the primary backup to Zeke. But, I'm not going to bet against #45 as the RB2 next season. Are you?

Do you think Rod Smith will be Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup in 2018?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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6 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    It really took the coaching staff all year to realize he was better than Alfred Morris. He definitely should be Zeke’s primary back up, not saying we shouldn’t draft a rb for depth but Rod Smith should definitely have a bigger role next season

    • Brian Martin

      Travis, I agree that Rod Smith deserves the chance to be the RB2. But, if I’m the Cowboys, I’m going to try to draft or sign someone who can compete for the job. I just don’t know if I’m comfortable enough with Smith taking over if something were to happen to Zeke.

    • Nick Russo

      I agree Travis. I think that Smith has all the tools and talent to be the backup to Zeke, and that he should have a bigger and more defined role as we go into next season. I don’t think it would hurt to add a “Dunbar like” scat back but also don’t think it should be high on the priority list given some of the other needs we have to address.

    • Tamzombren Lauderdale

      I agree, I cant believe they waited til the end of the yr 2 give him a shot !

    • Brian Martin

Star Blog

The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle Heating Up 1

Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.

The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.

As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.

Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.

Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.

Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.

I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.

All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.

How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?



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Star Blog

Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?

Brian Martin

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Decision not to Play Dan Bailey against the 49ers a Concern? 1

With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.

Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.

I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.

I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?

Dan Bailey

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.

Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.

Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.

Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?



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Star Blog

Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook

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Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook

Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.

The Dak Stats

Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.

Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.

When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.

Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.

Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.

Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.

Questions Still Loom

This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.

But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles -167
  2. Dallas Cowboys +350
  3. New York Giants +650
  4. Washington Redskins +750

NFC East Week 1 Predictions

The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.

The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.

The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.

The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.

This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.



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