The Dallas Cowboys have completed four practices in Oxnard, California, and their star running back Ezekiel Elliott is nowhere to be found. Actually, his whereabouts are known as he’s training in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, but that doesn’t make any of us feel any better. The Elliott contract saga could go on for a while as the two sides continue to work toward an agreement. It’s unclear when a deal is going to get done, so for now - the Cowboys have added another running back to the team with a familiar face, Alfred Morris.
Jerry Jones doesn’t appear to be sweating the Elliott situation and has even said they have a plan to make this all work.
“Zeke is arguably our best player. Zack Martin could get a lot of arguments. But we have so many players that need to play to make a football team up. And so we’ve gotta have them all. We have a plan to make this all work. Zeke’s business will have to fit in it,” Jones said.
Now, it’s unclear what that plan consists of, but the signing of Morris provides them a little insurance. Prior to his signing, the team entered camp with a group of running backs that have a combined six carries for a 16 yards worth of experience. The addition of Morris changes all of that as they now have an experienced player in the backfield who is already familiar with their system. And despite being 30 years old, he’s still a savvy runner who’s made a living out of finding creases and exploiting small holes for big gains.
In fact, this 70-yard run against the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 was the longest run for the Cowboys since 2011 when DeMarco Murray scampered off for 91 yards (also against the Rams).
The addition of Morris isn’t going to make the uneasy feeling of not having Elliott around just go way, but he does raise the floor for the Cowboys current running back group. The team is hoping to start the season with a star running back in Zeke, a dynamic receiving back in Pollard, as well as a third running back who could handle the workload if Elliott is unavailable. Ideally, the team would love Mike Weber to fill that role, but there is an open competition for that spot that is between him, Darius Jackson, and now Morris.
Just because Morris has instantly become the seasoned veteran of the group, doesn’t mean his place on this team is safe. The team knows what they have in Morris, but these other guys are wild cards. If either Weber or Jackson has a great camp and can demonstrate they could handle the backup job, it could mean a short stay for Morris. And he seems to be well aware of that.
“No, they didn’t give me assurances, but that doesn’t matter,” Morris said. “I’m Alfred. I’m going to come and do what I have to do. I’m always going to show up and give it my best. Whatever they do on the back end, that’s up to them. It’s not my business.”
That’s a great attitude to have, and we shouldn’t expect anything less from such a class person like Morris. The guy just rolls with the punches without ever being held down by the negative. Despite having such a phenomenal start to his NFL career, his big payday never came, yet you wouldn’t know it by his attitude.
Ezekiel Elliott already has 4,048 yards and 28 TD's after just three seasons in the league. Why would someone with those numbers be worried about his future?— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) July 30, 2019
Alfred Morris had 3,962 yards and 28 TD's after his first three seasons in the league. He's only made $5.8 M since.
For the Cowboys, bringing Morris back is nothing more than adding a little more competition to the practice field. Vice president of player personnel Will McClay was very clear about that.
“Competition is why we’re doing this whole thing,” McClay said. “So there’s no guarantee within that. We know what he can do, but there’s no guarantee.”
Ideally, they would love to have their star running back in Oxnard, but that doesn’t mean they’re just going to stand around and do nothing in the meantime. As McClay indicates, they have backup plan.
“We want the bell cow, we want him to be here and we hope that that happens,” he said. “There’s a contingency plan, but we’re also looking at it as, expecting him hopefully to be in here and then we’ve got depth and competition.”
So, for now - Morris gives the team a little breathing room. Should Elliott’s holdout impact the regular season, the Cowboys will at least have the option of a veteran running back on their roster. Should Zeke return, the fight to round out the bottom of the depth chart just got a little tougher.