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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

Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?

John Williams

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Should the Cowboys Make a Trade for These Oakland Raiders?

The trade deadline on October 30th will be here faster than we know. It's the final opportunity that NFL teams will have an opportunity to make a significant upgrade to their roster. And if you're a frequent reader of the Dallas Cowboys, then you know that the Dallas Cowboys could use some help, especially on the offensive side of the football.

On Thursday, Marcus Mosher from The Raiders Wire on USA Today posed a hypothetical trade involving the Dallas Cowboys. In his scenario, he has the Dallas Cowboys trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and thinks that Cooper could net the Raiders a top 75 draft selection.

Amari Cooper is a good wide receiver, but he's not a receiver I would trade a top-75 pick for. Cooper is a player that has a lot of talent, but has struggled with drops and inconsistency. Even now, with the Raiders he's having a hard time getting consistent opportunities.

Cooper's second on the team in targets, but third on the team in receptions behind a tight end and a running back. Cooper's also third on the team in yardage behind the two guys that I'd be way more interested in trading for; Tight End Jared Cook and Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson.

Yes, these guys are on the wrong side of 30, but they are guys that have been around a long time and can help your offense this season. Both would be upgrades at the position, even at their advanced NFL age.

Jared Cook - Tight End

You've heard the adage, "if you can't beat em, join em." Well, this is the reverse of that. "If he always beats you, acquire him."

That's what Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook is to the Dallas Cowboys. Point of evidence.

Game Winning Jared Cook Catch Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Uploaded by Kafin Walker on 2017-01-16.

That remarkable catch by Jared Cook still haunts me and many of you in Cowboys Nation. It was a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers and Cook made an incredible catch along the sidelines that led to Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Jared Cook's Oakland Raiders team isn't going anywhere this season. They're already four games back of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC is looking deeper than it has in recent years. The Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams in the NFC with less than two losses. That means there are 14 teams with better records than Jon Gruden's Oakland squad. This week the Raiders face a Seattle Seahawks team that beat the Dallas Cowboys and lost by only a couple of points to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Cook has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL this season and would be a veteran presence that the Dallas Cowboys could add if they felt like they could make a run at the playoffs.

At 31, Cook is averaging six catches and 78 yards receiving per game. He'd give the Dallas Cowboys someone they could run on post, corner, and seam routes to challenge safeties deep. Something that they're lacking from the tight end position at the moment. Cook is leading the Oakland Raiders in targets, receptions, yards, and is second on the Raiders in touchdowns in 2018.

No offense to Geoff Swaim, who's been surprisingly good this year, but Jared Cook makes this offense better. He allows you to make Rico Gathers your TE3, which would allow Rico to continue learning the game without the responsibility of being a primary target on certain pass plays.

Jared Cook is in the last season of his deal, so you wouldn't have to be committed to him beyond 2018. The perfect rental who could step in and play pretty quickly.

Jordy Nelson - Wide Receiver

I know this team is allergic to adding veteran players, especially veterans over 30, but Jordy Nelson is another name that they should take a long look at.

At 33 years of age, Nelson leads the Raiders in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 15.9 yards per reception. He's also third in receptions and second in yards.

His numbers -- 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns -- would lead the Dallas Cowboys in all receiving categories.

Nelson's still got some juice left and he's always been a good route runner with good hands.

Here are some highlights from Jordy's week three performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Jordy Nelson Can't Be Stopped w/ 173 Yards & 1 TD vs. Miami!

Check out Jordy Nelson highlights, racking up 173 yards receiving! The Oakland Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins during Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Check out our other channels: NFL Vault http://www.youtube.com/nflvault NFL Network http://www.youtube.com/nflnetwork NFL Films http://www.youtube.com/nflfilms NFL Rush http://www.youtube.com/nflrush #NFL #Raiders #JordyNelson

Nelson doesn't have any guarantees left on the deal he signed this past offseason so if you cut him in the 2019 offseason, you'd get zero dead money added to your 2019 salary cap, but would get $7.2 million in savings.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Because of their age and the fact that they'd likely be one-year rentals, I don't imagine that you'd have to give up much more than a fifth round pick for either of these guys. And while I don't think the Dallas Cowboys would take a look at trading for either veteran, it's something they should do if they have aspirations of making the playoffs in 2018.

The Dallas Cowboys offense could use a boost.

What's the most you'd be willing to offer for either Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook?

 



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Star Blog

Cowboys’ Issues Are Deeper Than The Division Race

Kevin Brady

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Are The Cowboys' Players Unhappy With Their Playbook?
Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News

Yesterday, Inside The Star staff writer Jess Haynie posed an interesting question: "could the wide-open NFC East help Jason Garrett's job security?"

The Dallas Cowboys started off their season a disappointing 2-3, but despite this rough start, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. The defending champion Eagles, who most expected to run away with the division, are now just 3-3. The lowly New York Giants are probably done at 1-5, and the Washington Redskins looked pathetic on Monday night, dropping to 2-2.

This division looks average at best, though I still somewhat expect the Eagles' talent to take over at some point and allow them to make a run. Still the Cowboys are alive, and if they can pull off the upset at home this Sunday, they may even be in first place come Monday morning.

So, Jess fairly asks, could this help Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' coaching staff keep their jobs? After all, it's rare you see an owner change coaches after remaining competitive within the division throughout most of the prior season. And given Jason Garrett's relationship with Jerry Jones, it might take an awful season to see any real change occur.

Here's the thing: this team could win the division at 9-7, and it would still be time for changes. Incompetence of others does not mean that you are competent, even if you are competent in comparison to those others.

The Cowboys have players openly questioning play calls, alluding to lack of trust in the quarterback, and pretty consistent drama swirling around the locker room. Yes, some of that is the media created Cowboy drama we always see, but there is disfunction within the organization without a doubt.

As a franchise the Cowboys need new blood in the building. To be honest, they could use a general manager separate from the Jones family name, but that is very unlikely to ever happen. So we focus on the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side of the ball where the Cowboys have struggled the most.

Dallas is 29th in passing yards, 28th in passing yards per attempt, and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns through five weeks. Plainly put, they're horrible, and bringing back an offensive minded head coach and/or offensive coordinator who oversaw this terrible passing offense is counterproductive.

Regardless of where the Cowboys stand within this average division, they need to look themselves in the mirror this offseason. They need to be seriously comparing themselves to teams like the Rams (and not by lying to themselves like Jerry Jones did), not the 1-5 Giants.

The Cowboys should be striving for more than just being the best of a group of average football teams, and if that means cutting ties with Jason Garrett, then so be it.



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Star Blog

Opposition Outlook: Versatile T.J. Yeldon Too Much for Dallas Cowboys?

John Williams

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Opposition Outlook: TJ Yeldon Will be a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys

If you haven't heard the news yet, then let me be the first to tell you. Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette has been ruled out of this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jaguars. Don't let his absence fool you, though, T.J. Yeldon is a back that can hurt the Cowboys in many ways.

T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars second round pick out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL Draft and was expected to be a featured back for them. That never really materialized and the Jaguars then went out and selected Fournette early in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yeldon is now more of a passing game back for the AFC South contender, but with Fournette out, he's getting an opportunity in a full-time role. He's not at all the same back as Fournette, as Yeldon has much more ability in the passing game.

Already in 2018, Yeldon's caught 22 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than any Dallas Cowboys wide receiver this season. T.J. Yeldon's averaging 8.8 yards per reception to go along with his 4.4 yards per carry on the season.

He's averaging 90 total yards per game on 16 touches and a touchdown a game. Even when Fournette was active in weeks one and four, Yeldon still received 17 and 21 touches in those games.

He's not at all an afterthought in the Jaguars offense and shouldn't be as the Dallas Cowboys defense prepares to stop them in week five.

Here's how he ranks among running backs with at least 24 targets:

  • Tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
  • 11th in receiving yards.
  • 14th in reception percentage.
  • Eighth in targets
  • 10th in receptions
  • Fourth in yards per reception
  • Seventh in yards after catch
  • Fifth in yards after catch per receptions.
  • Sixth in receptions that led to a first down.
  • Second in drops.
  • He has the 10th highest quarterback rating among running backs when targeted.

T.J. Yeldon isn't the best back in the NFL, but as a dual purpose back, he's really good. He's 15th in the NFL in total yards and for two of those games he was sharing the load with a former top five pick.

The Dallas Cowboys have been really good against the run this season. They've allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and their 3.4 yards per carry allowed ranks tied for second in the NFL. Where they've struggled is with running backs in the passing game.

Through five weeks this season, they've allowed running backs to go for 47.6 yards per game. In weeks one, two, and five, they allowed 66 yards receiving to Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alfred Blue.

If there's an area where the Jaguars can exploit the Dallas Cowboys defense, it will be in targeting T.J. Yeldon in the passing game. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and (hopefully if he plays) Sean Lee will be enough to slow him down and make Blake Bortles take chances down the field.



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