Now that the NFL draft is behind us and the Dallas Cowboys have added a slew of undrafted free agents to their offseason roster, the real fun is about to begin. In a couple of weeks, the Cowboys will begin their OTA’s before opening mandatory minicamp on June 6th. Minicamp is where some veterans and all the newcomers can start to make an impression on the coaching staff that could carry over into training camp this summer.
The Cowboys will hold training camp in Oxnard, CA for a cooler climate, but the competition for a spot on the roster will be hotly contested. The Cowboys have assembled one of the more well-rounded rosters in the NFL and as a result, jobs with America’s Team will be hard to come by. Tough roster decisions will have to be made and here’s an early look at a one position battle to keep a close eye on.
Ronald Jones vs. Rico Dowdle vs. Hunter Leupke for RB 4
First, let’s address the top of the depth chart. Tony Pollard sits atop the pecking order and is the most dynamic runner of the bunch and arguably irreplaceable in the Cowboys backfield. Pollard is playing on the franchise tag and returning from a broken fibula.
It would appear that Malik Davis is behind Pollard and has turned a few heads in the limited action he had last season. This year’s sixth-round draft pick, Deuce Vaughn is likely to make the team. He has strong connections in the front office, but he is on the team for his own merits. The former Kansas State Wildcat is a shifty runner in space and is a pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
This leaves veterans Ronald Jones and Rico Dowdle competing for the fourth running back on the roster along with newcomer Hunter Luepke. Jones is a former first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that couldn’t cement himself as the lead back and fell out of favor in Tampa, taking a secondary role behind Leonard Fournette. Since leaving the Buccaneers, Jones signed with Kansas City Chiefs and barely saw the field for their 2022 season that culminated in a Super Bowl win. Jones does have speed and can make plays out of the backfield but unfortunately has had a penchant for fumbling the football.
After having his contract expire, Dowdle signed back with the team hoping to once again earn his way onto the roster. 2023 would be his fourth season with the Cowboys and Dowdle has not seen any significant action, having just seven career rushing attempts and yet to score a touchdown. In order to make this team, Dowdle is going to have wow the coaching staff on special teams and showcase his talents in training camp practices.
Hunter Luepke is an intriguing challenger for a roster spot for a variety of reasons. Luepke has been billed as the best fullback prospect since 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Those that are familiar with Juszczyk understand that he is more than a conventional fullback and has a wide array of skills to bring to the table. Luepke is capable of playing on all three downs. He can pass protect, be a lead blocker, carry the football, and catch passes out of the backfield.
There is so much talent he presents and is brimming with potential to be tapped. That hasn’t been unnoticed by the Cowboys’ head coach. Mike McCarthy has shown in the past that he has an affinity for fullbacks that pose a diverse skill assortment. Because of his distinct abilities, Luepke may have the initial advantage over the two veterans, but this roster decision should keep things interesting for the first few weeks of training camp.