While some were barbecuing and/or popping fireworks on July 4th (happy belated!) here at BTB we were discussing the most expendable members of the Dallas Cowboys roster.
This is a topic with a generally large level of agreement, but a player absent from my own list of expendables that popped up a bit in the comments was running back Alfred Morris. Why?
Earlier this week Cole Patterson beat the Jahad Thomas drums in a way that would make Buddy Rich proud, but there’s a lot more to consider beyond Thomas’ upside, which is admittedly intriguing:
Thomas, an undrafted free agent that signed with Dallas shortly after the draft concluded, starred at Temple University for four seasons in Philadelphia.
During his four-year career in Philly, Jahad Thomas rushed for 2,599 yards and 30 touchdowns. He rushed for 2,215 yards and all of his 30 career rushing touchdowns over the course of his final two years on the college level. He posted a career average of 4.6 yards per carry. The stud tailback isn’t just a rusher, though. Thomas became a threat in the passing game for the Owls.
Thomas averaged 23 receptions in three seasons for Temple. He caught more passes as his career went on, catching 14 passes as a sophomore, 22 as a junior, and 33 as a senior. Thomas recorded 364 receiving yards in 2014, 216 in 2015, and accounted for 418 in his senior season. He has shown the ability to be a weapon in the passing game, an element that the coaching staff loves in their backs.
Alright so we dig Jahad Thomas’ game, but is there more to consider? Recently BTB mogul Tom Ryle lent forth some supreme wisdom regarding Ezekiel Elliott and the, shockingly, still pending investigation that’s been circling him since before even his first NFL carry:
If Elliott did do something, then he should be punished. But if there was something tangible to substantiate the accusations, why has nothing been done? Is the league engaged in a long-term fishing expedition, just hoping to hook onto something? At this point, just how substantial would that be? The NFL does not have to obey any rules of evidence, but they are expected to at least explain any decision they make. And it would have to be comply with the current collective bargaining agreement. Every day that the league drags this out, the more doubt accrues as to just what they have, and what their motivations really are.
Losing Elliott for any amount of time would have far more impact on the Cowboys than the recently upheld suspension of David Irving, or the still pending action against Nolan Carroll, or the coming legal hearing for Jourdan Lewis. Elliott is the linchpin of the Dallas offense. While Darren McFadden is a solid backup, Elliott is a truly elite running back in all phases of the game. Any games he misses would be challenging.
Here are the four running backs that we’re looking at in terms of the Dallas Cowboys right now, with the temperature that fans seem to have on them:
- Ezekiel Elliott: Total beast. 100 emoji. Everything you want. Hopefully the investigation ends well.
- Darren McFadden: Solid back-up. 2015 fourth-leading rusher (a convenient statistic to pull out when you need it). No major qualms.
- Alfred Morris: Dead man walking. Jahad Thomas is here to take his job, especially because Alfred doesn’t play on special teams.
- Jahad Thomas: The pet cat collars are already picked out.
Darren McFadden is a cheaper option than Alfred Morris, and he’s worked his game to be better for the Cowboys, so no major arguments there. Obviously, Zeke is Zeke so he’s the king of this crop, but is Jahad really a better option than Alfred?
Morris is a long way removed from the home-run celebrations we saw so frequently of him in a Washington Redskins uniform, but it’s not the hardest thing in the world to make an argument for him. He’s durable (never missed a game), hardly ever fumbles (never has as a Cowboy, granted only 69 carries, but he also didn’t fumble at all in Washington in 2015 with 202 carries), and he’s a decent enough blocker. He’s not setting any world records in terms of speed, but it’s not like Jahad Thomas is either.
And what about the main guy Alfred and the rest are backing up? What if Roger Goodell and Co. really do drop some insane hammer and Ezekiel Elliott is suspended (immediately knocks on all the wood in a hundred forests) for a stretch of time? Or what if for any other reason the services of the third running back on the team were required to a serious degree? Do we really want those responsibilities belonging to Jahad Thomas over Alfred Morris?
The special teams argument for Jahad over Alfred is admittedly a good one, but it seems like there’s this insane rush, no pun intended, to toss Alfred Morris aside already. To be totally fair the Cowboys themselves allegedly tried to do the tossing themselves via a trade, but were unsuccessful in finding someone to field said toss.
Training camp is going to be big for so many roster battles, but Alfred Morris is a particularly interesting one. The Zeke situation (even calling it a situation feels dramatic, but hey, good job NFL) increases Alfred’s importance for the time being, but if Jahad Thomas shows up and Elliott is cleared... gulp.