‘We’re running back by committee’: Cowboys’ McCarthy confirms timeshare for Elliott, Dowdle, others

‘We’re running back by committee’: Cowboys’ McCarthy confirms timeshare for Elliott, Dowdle, others

The Cowboys currently have eight running backs on the roster. As the veterans and rookies practice together for the first time, there are plenty of questions about which one will be the primary ballcarrier for 2024.

According to head coach Mike McCarthy, the answer is: none of the above.

“We’re running back by committee,” he told reporters at the conclusion of rookie minicamp.

Two-time rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott is back with the club and obviously the most experienced of the bunch. And while McCarthy claims that, so far, “it’s like he picked up right where he left off,” the coach seemed to confirm that the third-leading running back in franchise history- who turns 29 in July- won’t be logging 230-plus carries this year, as he had in each of his three previous seasons under McCarthy in Dallas.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” McCarthy said. “That’s not going to be his role.”

McCarthy acknowledged that modern NFL offenses have largely moved past the days of the bellcow feature back. And he certainly remembers those days well. He was on the sidelines in Kansas City for the last five years of Marcus Allen’s Hall of Fame career. In New Orleans, he gave Ricky Williams 561 carries in two seasons and then gave Deuce McAllister 945 over the next three. And he wasn’t shy about calling Ryan Grant’s number 312 times one year in Green Bay.

But despite putting Elliott in the league’s top 10 in rushing attempts every season from 2020 to 2022, McCarthy will be looking at Rico Dowdle, Royce Freeman, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke, Malik Davis, Snoop Conner, and UDFA Nathaniel Peat to help shoulder some of the Cowboys’ load this year.

“Seventeen games is lot of football, that’s a big role for those guys,” McCarthy explained. “Don’t get me wrong; they’d all like to carry it like the old days and have those touches, but you want those guys fresh at the most important time of the year.”

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How the workload will actually be split, of course, remains to be seen. But McCarthy has definitely run his share of committees, too. In 2022, Elliott and Tony Pollard had a 54/46 percentage split in carries. Eleven seasons prior, Ryan Grant and James Starks had an even closer division of labor: 134 and 133 carries, respectively, for a McCarthy-led Green Bay team that finished 15-1.

And his 2016 Packers saw eight different players tally double-digit rushing attempts, with nobody tallying more than 80. That RB room included Starks, Ty Montgomery, Eddie Lacy, Aaron Ripkowski, Christine Michael, Don Jackson, and Knile Davis… and bears a strong resemblance to the veritable sampler platter of backfield options Dallas plans to work with this summer.

Green Bay went 10-6 that season, earned a wild-card berth, beat the favored Cowboys in the divisional round, and made it to the NFC Championship.

Most Cowboys fans would be thrilled with an outcome like that in 2024, even if it means needing a program to keep track of who’s running the ball at any given time.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire