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Cowboys third running back slot might be claimed by an unexpected UDFA

Malik Davis has come out swinging and has taken an early lead statistically for the third running back position on the depth chart.

Dallas Cowboys v Denver Broncos Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

Through week one of the preseason, the Dallas Cowboys certainly have plenty of work to do as they prepare for the regular season which is just a few short weeks away. With high hopes and aspirations to bring the Lombardi Trophy home to a place that hasn’t held that trophy since the 1990’s, the first game of the preseason wasn’t what the team was looking for as a starting point to achieve such goals. It’s not time to hit the panic button, but in various areas of the team, sooner rather than later to fix the probalems should be the thought process.

Among the bright spots through week one of the preseason was the running attack. And no, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard were not out there getting game snaps and lighting the Denver Broncos defense up. In fact, just about every running back on the Cowboys roster not named Elliott or Pollard took advantage of the playing time and did well. However, there was one player in particular that stood above the rest, and that player was an undraftedfree agent running back by way of the Florida Gators named Malik Davis.

Towson v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Malik Davis has plenty of competition for the third running back spot, but thus far between a good camp and good first preseason game he is firmly in the mix to claim the job. Before we dive into this past weekend’s game, let’s talk about Davis’ career before joining the Cowboys.

In high school he became known as the “Hillsborough Heisman” where he broke the Hillsborough County rushing record. The record he broke was previously held by current NFLer of the San Francisco 49ers, Ray-Ray McCloud. If you aren’t familiar with Hillsborough County, Florida and it’s prominence as a football hotbed here are a few names aside from McCloud you may have heard of: Ted Washington, Vernon Hargreaves III, and current Cowboys cornerback, Anthony Brown. Holding a record in such a prestigious area of football talent can lead to a bevy of offers from some of the top Power 5 schools in the country including Oregon, Miami, and Minnesota. Davis ended up staying in his home state of Florida by committing to the University of Florida.

In the fall of 2017, Davis began his collegiate journey with the Gators by appearing in seven games. Unfortunately for Davis, the only reason he played in just seven games his freshman year was due to a season-ending knee injury against Georgia. Although he only appeared in seven games, he tallied 526 yards on the ground on 79 attempts and two touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough in the coaches eyes to be named to the All-SEC freshman team. Considering the circumstances, Davis flashed plenty of ability and was off to a good start to his college career.

In his sophomore year in 2018, the injury bug struck again and his season ended due to a broken foot after only three games. On the bright side, he was granted a medical redshirt, and for the 2019 season was considered a redshirt sophomore. His stats for both of his sophomore years do not jump off the page, but can be explained due to suffering injuries and trying to get back to 100% from those injuries. Sometimes, it can take a full season post injury and surgery to feel close to 100% again.

As a redshirt junior the following season, it appeared that Malik Davis was getting back in the groove again as he tallied a 687 yards total scrimmage yards on 97 plays for an average per touch of 7.1 yards. Taking a closer look at the total numbers on the season and you will see that from a receiving perspective, this was his best season as he caught 31 balls for 377 yards. As a side note, he averaged 6.8 yards per touch his freshman year. In the final year in college he needed to give himself a chance at an NFL future. He certainly did that when he ran the ball 92 times for 487 yards with five touchdowns. In addition to his rushing numbers, he caught 23 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

Here is a brief clip of highlights from college to get a better idea of the player.

Once his days in Gainesville concluded, he turned his attention to the NFL draft in hopes of pursuing an NFL career. That road did get a little bumpy as Davis was not invited to the NFL combine. Thankfully for him, he was able to perform at the Florida Gators pro day. His 40 times left a lot to be desired as he ran a 4.71 and followed up by 4.78. However, his explosiveness was on full display as he recorded a 39.5 vertical which would’ve ranked second at the NFL combine behind only Breece Hall who was a second-round pick this year by the New York Jets and arguably the best running back to come out of college this draft cycle.

Unfortunately for Davis, by the time the NFL draft had been concluded, he did not hear his name called. Thankfully for him, however, the Cowboys reached out and signed him as an undrafted free agent shortly after the conclusion of the draft.

NFL: JUN 02 Dallas Cowboys OTA Offseason Workouts Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since signing with the Cowboys, he has been impressive in camp as well as in the first preseason game this past weekend vs the Broncos. He led the team in rushing yards with 51 and on a per average basis of 6.4 a tote. He also caught a team high three passes for 16 yards and averaged 5.3 per grab. What stood out the most aside from the stat line was how decisive he was with ball in his hands and how much difficulty he gave the Broncos defenders by being hard to get on the ground as you’ll see in this clip below.

Having skills in both the ground game and passing game, he has enough tools in the shed to make this year’s squad. If he can maintain consistency in both the rushing and receiving game this preseason, and show what he can offer on special teams, his shot to make this year’s team increases immensely.

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