The Dallas Cowboys are prepared to hand Ezekiel Elliott a heavy load on 2018. They must find a quality backup so they don’t run him into the ground.
The lack of quality wide receivers on the Dallas Cowboys roster is obviously going to put the team’s ground game under tremendous pressure this season. Understandably, Ezekiel Elliott will shoulder a heavy load. The Cowboys need to make sure they develop a quality backup for Elliott to make sure they don’t ride him too hard.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that Elliott is more than willing to take all the carries Jason Garrett will give him. He claims that he’s in the “best shape of his life.” As such, he’s ready to take on more carries than ever before. The Cowboys’ coaching staff will certainly be tempted to give him his wish.
Garrett and Co. have to understand that too much of Elliott could turn into a bad thing for the Cowboys. That’s not to say he can’t get a ton of carries. He’s proven he can take a serious pounding in his first two seasons. However, expecting him to eclipse the 322 carries he enjoyed during his rookie season would be a serious mistake.
Keeping him right around the 300-carry mark would help keep him fresh for a potential playoff run. Obviously the team may be forced to increase his workload to stay in the postseason race, but 300 should be their target heading into the 2018 season. Keeping Elliott’s carries down at that level is going to necessitate the emergence of a legitimate backup running back.
Look for Rod Smith to get the first chance to make the role his own. He got 55 carries in 2017 and posted a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. That certainly isn’t Pro Bowl production, but that’s not what’s required. All the Cowboys need from their backup running back is average production behind the team’s stellar offensive line.
Don’t be surprised if seventh round pick Bo Scarbrough finds a way to get himself into the mix as well. He was tremendously productive for Alabama during his college career. The reason he slipped so far in the draft is because he’s not the most dynamic runner on the planet. He won’t have to be playing behind this massive offensive line. Scarbrough’s ability to hit the hole quickly, and with real authority, may push him past Smith on the depth chart.
There’s also still a chance that Dallas might look to bring in another running back before training camp begins. The team doesn’t have a ton of cap space left, but there are some intriguing options out there who would be available at the veteran minimum. Someone like Adrian Peterson or DeMarco Murray could be brought in for a look. It’s unlikely they’d be able to overtake Smith and Scarbrough, but it’s not impossible.
The identify of Dallas’ second string running back is far less important than his existence. Someone in the Cowboys backfield has to step up to make sure Elliott isn’t ridden into the ground. The backup runner could emerge as the unsung hero for the team.