How will the Dallas Cowboys divide the carries in the post-zeke era?

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The offseason of 2023 marked a changing of the guard at running back for the Cowboys. For seven years Ezekiel Elliott was the face of the Dallas backfield. The former No. 4 overall pick with a larger than life personality represented the heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboys organization.

But once it became clear his compensation had surpassed his production, Elliott was cut loose, reaffirming Father Time is undefeated and ushering in a new era in Dallas Cowboys lore.

Elliott leaves behind 231 carries from last season. While a career low for Elliott, it represented an impressive 44 percent of the team’s total carries (531). It was clear the day Elliott was released, the Cowboys would need to add new blood (via free agency and/or the draft) to pick up the slack.

Tony Pollard, the undisputed RB1 in 2023, could take on a bigger workload, but his 193 attempts in 2022 was a career high, and given his build, running style and explosiveness, he’s unlikely to take on significantly more.

There’s also a matter of Mike McCarthy’s desire to be a running team. The Dallas Cowboys were No. 2 in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2022 and that sounds like McCarthy wants it to continue in 2023. If so, he’ll need someone to take on roughly 200 of Zeke’s carries.

Behind Pollard sits a bunch of question marks and no known answers. The Dallas Cowboys drafted Deuce Vaughn but he’s nothing more than a change-of-pace back. They welcome back Rico Dowdle but he’s always injured and generally unproven. Malik Davis has potential but he has no work history. And Ronald Jones is the unexciting “break glass in case of emergency” option if all else fails.

As the Dallas Cowboys roster stands today, it will take a full committee to pick up the load left by Ezekiel Elliott’s departure.

After Tony Pollard’s breakout season in 2022, he was given the franchise tag and asked to carry the load. But “the load” isn’t going to be much more than the career high he set in 2022 and other players – unproven players – will be called upon to pick up the slack.

If the Cowboys are as committed to the running game as they say, that’s an enormous gamble they’re making. Maybe they aren’t as committed as they say they are. Or maybe they plan to add a veteran RB closer to the start of the season.

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We shall see, but one thing is clear: Tony Pollard isn’t going to take on all (or even half) of Zeke’s carries.

  • Published on 06/15/2023 at 22:01 PM
  • Last updated at 06/15/2023 at 22:01 PM