A Dallas Cowboys running back could be on the chopping block.
According to a list of potential cut candidates of the Cowboys by Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, running back Rico Dowdle could be looking at his last days as a member of Dallas. Knox mentions how the Cowboys have brought in stiffer competition behind their top two backs — Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard — in Malik Davis and Aaron Shampklin.
Dowdle — who missed the entire 2021 season due to a hip injury — could be on the way out.
Why the Cowboys Could Move On From Dowdle
“The biggest obstacle for Dowdle this year is that Dallas brought in competition behind top backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard,” says Knox. “The Cowboys signed Malik Davis and Aaron Shampklin as free agents following April’s draft. Shampklin, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry with Harvard last year, is particularly intriguing as a potential No. 3 option.”
Dowdle has just seven career carries and 24 yards to his name. The former undrafted free agent played a decent role on special teams during the 2020 season, playing on 48 percent of the snaps. Furthermore, he could possibly play a role on the kickoff return team. He returned four kickoffs for 152 yards in 2020, including a 64-yard return against the Pittsburgh Steelers in one game.
Knox stresses how Shampklin could emerge as a dark-horse candidate during training camp and unseat Dowdle for the third running back spot. Senior writer Rob Phillips of the Cowboys’ official website mentions how Dowdle’s absence during offseason camp could benefit Shampklin.
“The top two spots on the depth chart are obviously taken by Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, and Rico Dowdle – back from season-ending hip surgery a year ago – probably has the inside track to the third running back job,” says Phillips. “But Dowdle (knee scope) and JaQuan Hardy missed offseason practice time due to injuries, so that gave Shampklin some extra snaps heading into that training camp competition.”
Shampklin ran the 40-yard-dash at Pro Day in the 4.4-second range, much faster than Dowdle’s 4.54 speed at the 40-yard-dash.
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Dowdle’s Health Will Play Major Role in Future With Cowboys
Knox mentions how Dowdle’s experience in the system could be an advantage over newcomers in Davis and Shampklin. Furthermore, Pollard could see an increased role as a slot receiver, leaving more of a need for an experienced backup behind Elliott.
“Now, Dowdle will have to show that he’s both healthy and a better third option than the two newcomers,” says Knox. “Working in Dowdle’s favor is the fact that he knows the offense already and could see backup Pollard taking some reps as a receiver.”
However, if Dowdle proves to be unhealthy by the end of August, it’s hard to envision the Cowboys bringing back the the 24-year-old for a third season with the club.
“Still, Dowdle’s recovery and the untapped potential of the incoming rookies—the Cowboys know what they have in Dowdle—are challenges that must be met,” says Knox. “If the 24-year-old cannot prove that he’s at 100 percent and can offer Dallas a unique change-of-pace option, he’ll be a prime cut candidate in August.”
If Dowdle shows he isn’t fully recovered from his injuries, Shampklin could emerge as the third back by the end of camp.