Letting Ezekiel Elliott sign with the Patriots and not making a known entrance into the Jonathan Taylor sweepstakes, the Cowboys are still planning to give one of their in-house running backs the backup job to Tony Pollard. Last year’s third-stringer behind Elliott and Pollard, Malik Davis, may be fighting an uphill battle to merely make Dallas’ 53-man roster. With Rico Dowdle the favorite to be Pollard’s top backup, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill notes Davis may be facing a cut. Dowdle and elusive rookie Deuce Vaughn have outplayed Davis during camp, per Hill, with the latter — a 5-foot-5 sixth-rounder out of Kansas State — flashing in games. Vaughn starred with the Wildcats for three seasons, excelling as both a runner and receiver, and continues to make a case for a role on offense.
Dowdle arrived in the NFL as a 2020 UDFA; Davis joined the Cowboys as a UDFA last year. Dowdle has not logged a regular-season carry since 2020, but it looks like the South Carolina product is poised to change that pattern this season. Here is the latest from the running back scene:
- The Eagles have a deeper cast of running backs, at least in terms of experience. Philly added both Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift this offseason, and Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott are on track to maintain roles in the defending NFC champions’ crowded backfield. This leaves Trey Sermon as the likeliest odd man out, per The Athletic’s Zach Berman (subscription required). The Eagles added Sermon, a 2021 third-round pick, following his 49ers cut last year but only used him in two games. Sermon could be a practice squad option; he spent much of his first Eagles year as part of that 16-man unit. But the Eagles’ present backfield configuration adds another hurdle for a player once projected to be the 49ers’ Week 1 starter.
- The Vikings guaranteed 90.7% of Alexander Mattison‘s two-year, $7MM contract — a deal that replaces Dalvin Cook‘s as the top running back pact on the team’s payroll — but incentives will allow the fifth-year back to add to that total. If Mattison clears 750 rushing yards, he would pick up $250K. This applies to each season on the contract, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Caplan notes. That number would bump up to $500K in each year if Mattison notches 1,000 yards. While Mattison has never eclipsed 500 yards in a season, he was never in realistic position to do so. With Cook cut, the longtime RB2 is set for his first season as Minnesota’s starter. The Vikings see Mattison, 25, as a three-down player, Caplan adds, noting the team is determining its RB2. Ty Chandler, kick returner Kene Nwangwu and seventh-round rookie DeWayne McBride are in place behind Mattison.
- Tarik Cohen is coming off two season-nullifying injuries. The former Bears running back/return man suffered ACL and MCL tears in 2021, and less than a week after Chicago cut him (in May 2022), Cohen suffered an Achilles tear. The former Pro Bowl returner is healthy and ready to work out for teams, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. The Bears used Cohen regularly as an outlet option for Mitch Trubisky. In 2018, the 5-6 back totaled 725 receiving yards and led the NFL in punt-return yardage. Although RB value has tanked in 2023, Cohen could represent an interesting flier as a passing-down option. Granted, this is not a good time for a back to be seeking a job coming off two season-ending maladies.