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Can the Cowboys Replicate the Lions’ ‘RB by Committee’ Success?

The Dallas Cowboys brought back former first round running back Ezekiel Elliott on a one-year contract several weeks ago. Elliott is a fan favorite in Dallas and his return has sparked several questions on how head coach Mike McCarthy is going to utilize the aging running back.

Just recently, McCarthy stated that he is going to have a ‘running back by committee’ approach in 2024. If you are unfamiliar with this term, it is when there is not just one true bell cow running back taking the snaps but rather multiple athletes on different snap counts.

Elliott is coming off of a lackluster season by his career standards and his worst statistical season in his eight season NFL career. He finished with 184 carries for 642 rushing yards, a 3.5 yard per average, and three rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Elliott caught 51 receptions for 313 yards and two touchdowns; he had two fumbles, losing one, while starting just five games in a seventeen game season.

The most important question heading into the season for the Dallas Cowboys is whether or not this running back by committee approach will work successfully. Last season, the Detroit Lions proved that having two running backs with different styles can effectively provide a spark on the offensive side of the football.

Lions’ David Montgomery came from the Chicago Bears in free agency and was the power back. He finished with 219 carries for 1,015 yards, a 4.6 yard per average, and 13 rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Montgomery caught 16 receptions for 117 yards, and no touchdowns; he had two fumbles, losing one, in 14 games played during the regular season.

Another running back for the Lions was a rookie who emerged quickly in 2023 – Jahmyr Gibbs. The 22-year-old first-round draft pick carried the football 182 times for 945 yards, and 10 rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Gibbs caught 52 receptions for 316 yards, and one touchdown; he had two fumbles with one lost in 15 games played during the regular season.

Both Montgomery and Gibbs had unique styles that catered to the offensive production for the 2023 Lions. Montgomery was more of the physical power back while Gibbs was the shifty back who caught screen passes and made people miss in the open space. These two athletes complimented each other quite well in their ‘running back by committee’ approach.

Will the Cowboys’ RB Approach Work in 2024? 

The Cowboys will have the following running backs on their roster in 2024:

  • Rico Dowdle
  • Ezekiel Elliott
  • Deuce Vaughn
  • Royce Freeman
  • Malik Davis
  • Snoop Conner
  • Nathaniel Peat (Rookie)

This is a loaded backfield and many of these players will be on the practice squad and/or cut before the start of the regular season. With a 53-man roster, there will only be a handful of players at each position. Several other running backs are vying for roster spots, but Dowdle, Elliott, and Vaughn are likely locks.

The question of whether or not the Cowboys’ running back by committee approach will work in 2024 will be defined by the play calling and creativity of McCarthy. The Lions’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson did a fantastic job with splitting reps between Montgomery and Gibbs as well as utilizing their strengths to build the offensive scheme. If Dallas wants similar success and to bring Elliott back into his earlier form as an athlete, it will be up to McCarthy and his offensive staff.

I am looking forward to seeing Elliott back in a Cowboys uniform in 2024, and hope that McCarthy can help resurrect his career as Elliott heads into the dark side of being a running back in the NFL – almost being 30-years-old.


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