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Will Rod Smith Be The Surprise Ezekiel Elliott Replacement?

Brian Martin

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Should Rod Smith Start In Ezekiel Elliott's Absence?

News broke yesterday that the Dallas Cowboys will be without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott against the Atlanta Falcons this week. The on-again/off-again suspension saga has put the Cowboys at a disadvantage, but you won't hear them crying over spilt milk. They will now have to turn to Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, and Darren McFadden to carry the running game in Elliott's absence, but who exactly is the top dog among the three?

Alfred Morris certainly looks as if he will get the first shot to try to replace Ezekiel Elliott's production for the Cowboys. Morris has already had a few impressive runs this year while Elliott took a breather. In fact, he is averaging an impressive 8.3 yards per carry and is playing with a renewed energy/burst that we haven't seen from him since coming to Dallas. And believe it or not, he has the longest run of the year (70 yards), not Ezekiel Elliott (30 yards).

If Morris can continue to have that kind of success, it's unlikely Rod Smith or Darren McFadden see very many carries. But, I believe Rod Smith is the running back who will emerge among the three and eventually receive more carries than Alfred Morris. Fortunately, I'm not the only one who believes this way.

Jeff Sullivan on Twitter

If the Zeke suspension holds, I'm not sure what the legal options are, I think we're going to see a lot more of Rod Smith than anyone realizes. Think he'll have more touches than Alfred Morris over the six games.

For those of you who don't know Jeff Sullivan, he is a featured Staff Writer for the Dallas Cowboys. He is one of the lucky few who know a little bit more about what's going on behind the scene than us casual fans. But, him saying that Rod Smith will have more touches than Alfred Morris doesn't surprise me all that much.

RB Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys running back Rod Smith (45) runs during a 2017 NFL week 3 regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz. The Cowboys defeated the Cardinals, 28-17. (James D. Smith via AP)

Back in August I wrote about Rod Smith and how I believed he would emerge as Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup. Please feel free to read my reasons as to why I feel this way. It may surprise you, but I still feel this way today, even several months later.

Now, there is no way of knowing if he will eventually see more touches than Alfred Morris or even Darren McFadden for that matter. Rod Smith first has to be given the opportunity to prove himself, but I think that's all he needs.

Rod Smith is the unknown that everybody wants to see more of. He brings unique size and speed to the position, but possesses the skill set to be a three-down back in the NFL. But, what I like the most about him is the attitude he brings to the table.

I like both Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. I really do. But, they just don't run with the same kind of violence Rod Smith does. I think it's that kind of attitude the Cowboys offense will feed off of, much like they do when Ezekiel Elliott runs the ball.

I'm sure the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will ride the hot hand during Elliott's absence. They can't afford not to. But, when all is said and done, I think it's going to be Rod Smith that rises to the top. Remember, you heard it here first.

Should Rod Smith start in Zeke's absence?



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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8 Comments
  • Hobbes49

    I think you may be right Brian. The little bit he has played, he has shown that nasty side to gain the extra yard or two. His burst seems good, and he runs with good balance. I think our running game is going to be fine. It is truly annoying to listen the talking heads talk about how we are toast now. They make it sound like we pulled guys of the sidewalk to play RB for us. We have two accomplished runners, and one very intriguing less experienced RB, and arguably the best O-line in the NFL. Be fun to hear people explain how they knew we would be alright along after we run over Atlanta on Sunday.

    • Brian Martin

      The running game will be a little bit less dynamic without Zeke, but you’re right, they will be just fine. I personally really like Rod Smith and I think he might be better than Morris or McFadden if given the chance. We will have to wait and see how things play out though.

      • Hobbes49

        I think I am drinking the Kool Aid a bit here, but I am feeling like we are seeing the development of a championship team. The offense is great, the defense is coming along nicely. It feels like we have a sustainable championship contender growing. I had a friend who is a Marine tell me, the Cowboys will improvise, adapt, and overcome, and they will win even without Zeke. I am going with that.

        • Brian Martin

          You’re not the only one drinking the Kool-Aid. I’m right there with you. Although, I would like to see the refs actually throw some flags against the teams the Cowboys are playing. I know it may sound like a conspiracy theory, but it looks like the entire NFL is out to get the Cowboys.

          • Hobbes49

            It does feel that way at times. We will see how Sunday goes. I am thinking we may get a crazy running game out of this weekend because I expect the Falcons to scheme us differently early at least, not as much 8 in the box.

          • Brian Martin

            I’m kind of leaning the other way. I think defenses will continue to stack the box and force Prescott to beat them with his arm.

  • EverybodyTalks

    I definitely want to see what these 3 RBs have. We have been teased and assured, but on Sunday we will see who these guys are. Totally agree that Rod Smith may come out on top and we will be a more rounded team with greater options as a result. We are going to have some bumps in the road, some rough spots. Objectively, we have been blessed. Our injuries have been minimal when compared to other teams. As Tyron sits, we have Chaz to let him rest for Philly. Nugent has filled in nicely for Bailey. Sean Lee and Hitch came back just in time. Zeke isn’t an injury, but it hurts not having him. We all thought Zeke would be back by now, but he is just starting and so are these 3 running backs. Looking forward to Sunday.

    • Brian Martin

      I think everyone is somewhat anxiously awaiting to see what the running game looks like without Zeke in the lineup. The coaching staff has been pretty adamant things won’t be much different, but Elliott is such a special talent it’s hard not to think the offense will take a step back. Hopefully the coaching staff is right though. And, I completely agree with you about injuries. The Cowboys have been pretty fortunate in that area.

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Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Despite Late Push in Year One, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See the Field in 2018? 1
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.

These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.

Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.

Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, DT Maliek Collins (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.

This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.

Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.

The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.

It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.

Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.

As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.

For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.

From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.

Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.

They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.

Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

https://t.co/za0u3lWgaY

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract

Jess Haynie

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Which 2018 Free Agents Will The Cowboys Retain? 1
Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportwire

DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future  beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.

According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.

Jon Machota on Twitter

DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million

This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.

Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.

This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.

Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.

There is risk on both sides, of course.

Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.

Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.



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