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Rico Dowdle or Malik Davis? Trying to decipher who should be the real Cowboys’ RB2

The running back group behind Tony Pollard seems very unclear.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have one of the most explosive running backs in the league in Tony Pollard. This year will mark the first year the young back will be given the keys to the backfield and take on the lead running back role after the departure of Ezekiel Elliott. It’s a role fans are excited about going forward, but it’s also one that brings about some trepidation. Pollard has never been a bellcow running back. Overextending him could be costly, and it would behoove the Cowboys to have another back sharing the workload, but who is that back?

The team signed free agent back Ronald Jones to help out, but we’re tapping the brakes with him as he is coming off a very uneventful 2022 season. The veteran is currently sidelined with a groin injury and will be serving a two-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. This makes it rather difficult to see what the team has in Jones prior to the regular season.

There’s been some excitement for sixth-round draft pick Deuce Vaughn, but it’s also hard to get a sense of what he can bring until he sees some real action. How his size holds up against NFL contact will be on everyone’s mind as we enter preseason action.

Outside of those new guys, the rest falls on a couple of UDFAs the Cowboys have acquired in recent years, Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle. Davis served as the team’s RB3 last year behind Zeke and Pollard and rushed for 161 yards on 38 attempts last year. However, before Davis’ number was called, the team had named Dowdle as the RB3. Unfortunately, that was short-lived as an ankle injury cut his season short after just five games. He could have returned later in the season, but the team chose to roll with Davis at that point.

Here we are a year later, and once again we’ll be treated to a healthy competition between Davis and Dowdle. How will things turn out this time around? Dowdle is currently healthy and once again gaining the traction that he typically does this time of year. The coaching staff loves him and his ability on special teams has always given him an edge. It would seem like he would still be the frontrunner for the job and after the team recently released their depth chart on Monday, that still appears to be the case.

The second-year Davis should have a lot to say about that before the final roster is determined. With another year of experience, he could add his own level of growth that could close the gap between the two. Additionally, there’s a greater role to be had as a runner so this piece weighs more heavily this time around. So who’s the better running back?

In a vacuum, these guys are pretty close. Dowdle may be more athletic and is a good straight-line runner with the vision to find creases, whereas Davis offers a little more wiggle to his rushing attack. Both are good once they turn the corner and can find an extra gear to break off a nice run; however, neither of them has homerun speed. Davis also has shown some good power/leverage to milk extra yards through contact whereas Dowdle’s balance has prevented him from stretching out any big runs in what preseason action we’ve seen from him thus far.

The extra experience Davis has gotten may be enough to jump Dowdle this time around, but this is a wait-and-see situation. What happens over the next few weeks will be huge in determining how the depth chart looks when real football happens. For Dowdle to remain ahead of Davis, he’ll need to put some good reps on tape, but most importantly, he’ll need to stay healthy. Starting from his time in South Carolina, the ability to stay healthy has plagued him as he suffered injuries in every one of his four years in college. That included a sports hernia (freshman), broken leg (sophomore), ankle (junior), and groin and knee (senior). And things have not gotten better for Dowdle as a pro as a hip injury in 2021 and an ankle injury last year have also sidelined him. The continuous struggle to be available certainly has to be something of concern. Here is my own evaluation/comparison of the two backs...

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