How CeeDee Lamb, WR corps help Cowboys running game in 2024

The Cowboys have caught a fair amount of heat for their handling of the running back position this offseason. Not only did they let Tony Pollard exit unopposed in free agency, but they ignored the position completely in the 2024 NFL draft. Aside from signing veterans Ezekeil Elliott and Royce Freeman, they did next to nothing to ensure the RB room would be formattable in the coming season.

With Rico Dowdle poised to take on the lead back role in 2024, the “running backs don’t matter” mantra will be properly put to the test. The Cowboys took some significant long-term steps to upgrade their blocking up front and a number of external options may still be in play down the road, but the way things look today, solutions must be found within.

Conventional wisdom says Dallas will use a committee approach in 2024. With any luck the sum of the parts at RB will be more than the somewhat uninspiring list of individuals. Another way to squeeze extra juice from the ground game could be by utilizing CeeDee Lamb and his wide receiver brethren.

Using WRs as an extension of the running game is nothing new in the NFL. It doesn’t take Deebo Samuel or a Shanahan offense to get the ball into the hands of these untraditional ball carriers, Mike McCarthy showed last season even he can find ways to give carries to his top pass catcher.

Averaging just under one carry per game, Lamb was quite the formidable weapon on the ground. Whether it was a handoff around the edge, or a run between the tackles, Lamb was consistently successful. His 85.7% success rate as a runner was far and away better than any of the Cowboys’ traditional ball carriers. His 8.1 yards/attempt were staggeringly efficient with over 57 percent of his carries going for either a first down or touchdown.

Given the wear and tear associated with the ground game and Lamb’s importance in the passing game, he’s obviously limited in terms of volume. But Lamb isn’t the only WR on the roster, and given the rawness of the WR room overall, rushing attempts may be exactly what this group in Dallas needs to manufacture opportunities.

Behind Lamb and Brandin Cooks are a number of viable candidates in the WR room. KaVontae Turpin leads the list of explosive playmakers starving for opportunities. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound human joystick averaged 10 yards per carry as a runner last season. The problem was he only logged 11 attempts.  While Lamb is too valuable to the passing game to risk overusing as a runner, Turpin is primarily just a return man. The risk isn’t as severe with Turpin and the reward could be astronomical.

Even if Turpin just averaged one rushing attempt per game, he’d establish himself as a threat and could be used in motion as a decoy to spread out defenses and create more opportunities for others.

Jalen Tolbert may not have much to offer as a runner, but the rookie Ryan Flournoy could. Flournoy appears to be an extremely raw WR prospect who the Cowboys targeted because of his raw athletic ability. He has the speed, quickness and explosiveness that can’t be taught and a 6-foot-1, 202-pound frame to support it. Opportunities on the ground could help him buy time on the roster as he learns the nuances of the position transitioning from Southeast Missouri.

A carry here and a carry there add up and even if it’s just three carries the Cowboys WR corps adds each week, it could be a huge addition to the ground production overall. At the very least it would keep defenders guessing and create playmaking space on the field.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire