The Cowboys had problems at running back, here are a few solutions.
Let’s kick off the list with a lower-end but still solid option. Zack Moss spent the first two and a half seasons of his career with the Buffalo Billsbefore being traded in 2022 to the Indianapolis Colts. After an injury to Colts’ star running back Jonathon Taylor, Moss became the featured back. In 2023, Moss had career highs in rushing attempts (183), rushing yards (794), and rushing touchdowns (five). Moss had a pair of breakout games in weeks two and four.
In week two, Moss carried the ball 30 times for 122 yards and added a receiving touchdown in a 22-19 overtime win vs. the Ravens. Two weeks later, Moss rushed for 165 yards off 23 attempts and added a pair of rushing touchdowns. Helping lead the Colts to a 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. Even when Taylor returned from injury, Moss still had a significant role in the offense as he managed four games of 10 or more carries.
Moss proved he can be a starter through his first four games of the season. With Taylor sidelined, Moss missed week one, but in weeks two through five, the fifth-year back rushed for 445 yards (5.0 avg) and one rushing touchdown. That’s 111.3 rushing yards per game. However, it doesn’t stop there. Moss also proved to be an efficient pass blocker. Per Pro Football Focus, Moss had 50 pass-blocking snaps and registered a respectable 62.0 grade.
Pass blocking doesn’t appear on highlights or the stat sheet for running backs. Yet, it’s just as valuable a skill for a back to possess. The price shouldn’t be a concern. According to Spotrac, Moss has a market value of $4.6m. The Cowboys should consider Moss, who, at 26, is looking for an opportunity to continue to show he can be an RB1.
From one back who deserves a starting gig to potentially another. AJ Dillon is another name set to hit the open market and will be looking for the opportunity to lead a backfield in 2024. Selected by the Packers 62nd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, Dillon has served as a solid complimentary back to Aaron Jones.
The powerful and athletic 247-pound back is coming off a 2023 campaign in which he rushed for 613 yards and two scores. However, from a career perspective, as a number two back, Dillon has rushed for 2,428 yards and 16 career rushing touchdowns over the first four seasons of his career.
In addition, Dillon has shown he can be reliable at times as a receiver, totaling 86 receptions, 763 yards, and two touchdowns. As for Dillon’s skill set, the former Boston College star known as “Quadzilla” is a power runner who could help the Cowboys’ offense in short-yardage situations. Similar to Moss, Dillion can also assist in pass protection. Should the Cowboys limit their spending on a running back, Dillon might be another reasonable option. Per Spotrac, Dillon has a market value of just $3.5 million.
The Cowboys roster-building is under question.
Why does it seem like the Cowboys are always building their teams from the “outside-in” versus the “inside-out”? There is always a need for a defensive tackle and middle linebacker. There is always a group of good receivers, but no inside rushing attack. – Robert Brantley/Atlanta, GA
Nick Eatman: I don’t think that’s accurate, to be honest. If you look at the last three first-round picks, all of them have been from the “inside” as you called it. Last year, they picked Mazi Smith, the first defensive tackle selected in the first round in over 30 years. Whether or not it worked out, doesn’t mean they didn’t try to strengthen that inside. The year before, they took Tyler Smith in the first round to play guard at first and eventually tackle. We’ll see if he ever moves out to tackle. But that’s another inside move and then with Micah Parsons in 2021, he was drafted as a linebacker, and someone who could potentially play in the middle. It was Week 2 of the season when they decided to move him to the outside and they found something special. Now that’s just three first-round picks, but from the building sense, I think the Cowboys have always thought it was important to strengthen the O-line and the D-line. It just doesn’t always work the way you want it, or they want it. But I’ll say this, the Cowboys need to keep going to the well. Back to the O-line and D-line again in the draft is something I would do.
The Cowboys need to get ahead of the game when it comes to retaining the services of these players.
Tyron Smith can still be a vital part of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl chase at 33 years old. The left tackle proved that during the 2023 campaign, but that also made him one of the more intriguing free-agent candidates on the offensive line. Pro Football Focus rated Smith as its No. 14 overall free agent. That could lead to a big payday elsewhere, or a shorter deal to remain in Dallas to chase a title.
The Cowboys had eight players make over $10 million last season, including Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs. Smith will not be added to that list for 2024 because of the team’s salary cap constraints. Dallas would love to have Smith anchor the offensive line again, but if a contender comes in with a big contract offer, it could mean the end of his time with the Cowboys.
Tyler Biadasz’s familiarity with Prescott and the rest of the offensive line would be great to hold on to. Dallas wants stability, especially on the offensive line, and not a ton of turnover that may cause some troubles at the start of the 2024 season. The Cowboys can prioritize Smith and Biadasz because it can find replacements for their other free agents.
Pollard did not do enough in 2023 to prove he is worth a massive contract. The Cowboys may be better off drafting a new running back to help save some money as well. DaRon Bland’s play in Diggs’ injury absence could make some of the free agents from the secondary more expendable than they may have been entering 2023. That makes the offensive line the top priority for the Cowboys this offseason so that there is stability in front of Prescott.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. should be on the Cowboys radar for the 2024 NFL Draft – Chris Halling, Blogging the Boys
The Cowboys need to beef up the linebacker and need to consider the son of a formal rival.
This offseason should be filled with a lot of key decisions for the Cowboys, as head coach Mike McCarthy is coaching for his job in 2024, and a decision will have to be made regarding quarterback Dak Prescott and his contract. Prescott currently has one year left on his deal, but will account for roughly $59 million in cap space this upcoming season if he is not offered an extension or has it restructured.
While there are many things on the Cowboys offseason checklist, it’s never too early to look ahead at potential draft prospects. The front office in Dallas has a proven track record of succeeding in the draft, selecting several All-Pro players. With that said, this past draft class looks like a rare miss for the team. They received very little production from anyone in their class, and suffered because of it. When they drafted defensive tackle Mazi Smith in the first round last year, the hope was he would make an immediate impact defending the run. This didn’t end up being the case, as he spent a majority of the season on the sideline. When he did play, the results were not most hoped for.
The Cowboys still have a lot of work to do when it comes to their linebackers and defensive tackles. The Cowboys should avoid drafting a defensive tackle in the first round for the second consecutive season. It is well-known that defensive tackles typically take longer than other positions to get acclimated to the NFL, and with the Cowboys looking to contend in 2024, they will need immediate production from their early selections. With that said, there is a player in this upcoming draft class that would fit a need for the Cowboys defensively, and could immediately step in as a starter for the team. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. out of Clemson, would be the perfect selection for the team.
Trotter finished the 2023 seasons with 87 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and a touchdown for the Clemson Tigers. His play this season earned him his second straight AP All-American selection, and he was a selected as a finalist for the Butkus Award, an award given to the top linebacker in the country.
Trotter has NFL in his family as he is the son of former Philadelphia Eagles LB Jeremiah Trotter. The elder Trotter had a successful career with the Eagles, earning a first-team All-Pro selection in 2000, a second-team All-Pro selection in 2001, as well as being selected to the Pro Bowl four times throughout his career.
One thing that jumps off the screen when watching the 21-year-old prospect is his energy and toughness. In his time at Clemson, he was seen often overcoming bigger blockers with his motor and burst. Trotter is very athletic and has enough speed and closing burst to allow him to have good sideline-to-sideline range. This is not only useful in defending the outside running game, but it allows him to be terrific dropping into coverage and defending the pass.
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