The Dallas Cowboys have one of, if not the best running back tandems in the entire NFL. The havoc possible with their new version of Thunder and Lightning was on full display Sunday in Minnesota. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for four touchdowns on the day, doing what they currently do best. And that’s exactly why they need to go out and secure help.
Wait, what? That’s right, because of how well Elliott and Pollard are working together, Dallas needs to consider getting help. They likely won’t win the waiver claim, but they absolutely should put one in on recently released Rams running back Darrell Henderson. Here’s why.
Why did he get released?
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Not sure what is happening in Los Angeles, but it’s been a strange season for their running backs. Henderson was supposed to be No. 2 to Cam Akers, but Akers seemed to not be on the same page with head coach Sean McVay. It got to the point that the Rams were publicly discussing trading Akers, but as the trade deadline approached Akers seemed to buy in and the talks subsided. The Rams actually turned down offers for Akers.
Now, a few weeks later and as the Rams’ season of Lombardi defense slips further into the NFL background, it’s Henderson who is on the street.
Henderson has started two of the last three weeks, but he’s barely getting any touches. And with the Rams sitting at 3-7, he’s probably seen as a progress stopper to fifth-round pick Kyren Williams, whom the team traded up for. Henderson is in the final year of his rookie deal.
is he still any good?
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His advanced stats say he is.
Henderson is sporting a near-career low in yards per carry (4.0) barely above his rookie-year average of 3.8. He’s sporting a career low in yards per reception at 6.0.
But his DVOA numbers say that’s more of a circumstance of just how low and moribund the Rams’ offense is in general. The team is averaging just 3.4 yards a rush and Akers is sitting at 3.1 individually.
In DVOA, Akers sits at +9.5%. If he had enough carries to qualify (he only has 70 on the year) he’d rank 9th, right on the heels of Elliott (10.0%). Pollard is fourth in the league at 18.2%.
Henderson’s receiving DVOA ranks 15th (Pollard is fourth again at 28.4%).
For reference purposes, third-string backup Malik Davis’ DVOA is -23.3% in limited carries (20).
But why would the Cowboys need/want him?
(AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Dallas has already suffered through two games without Elliott available, in Week 8 and Week 10, surrounding their bye weeks. It’s been stated that the club wants to ensure they have both backs healthy for the stretch run and they will continue to work the formula that has worked well for them.
While Henderson is neither the thunder that Elliott is nor the lightning that Pollard is, he’s a poor-man’s version of both. If either were to miss time, there’s certainly a conversation to be had on whether or not the club would want to plug in undrafted rookie free agent Malik Davis into a more substantial role.
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Henderson is actually Pollard’s former teammate at Memphis. While Pollard was being used as a returner and passing game option and averaging 3-5 carries per game, Henderson was getting the lion’s share of carries.
There’s also the conversation to be had about the offseason. Yes, Henderson is a free agent but so is Pollard. The smart man would want the Cowboys to restructure Elliott and re-sign Pollard to a reasonable deal, but if that’s not the case, having some inside intel on Henderson wouldn’t be a bad idea.
If he isn’t intriguing, Dallas could cut him just like the Rams did without anything really lost. But what if he’s a great fit for Dallas’ blocking scheme?
Even if they can’t retain him, if he gets any semblance of a decent contract on the open market, he could figure into the Cowboys’ compensatory pick formula.
It’s literally an all upside move.
What's the money look like?
Henderson has a minimal contract, just over $1 million for the year. Prorated for the final seven weeks of the season, that’s just $412,000 and some change that would come off of the Cowboys’ books for the remainder of the year.
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
The Cowboys would release Davis and hope to get him back on the practice squad. He’d be subject to waivers the same way Henderson is and there’s a risk he’s shown something to someone to put him on their roster.
Rico Dowdle was ahead of Davis on the depth chart until he injured his ankle in mid-October. That should be very close to being healed so if Davis is lost, they should still have their initial backup plan available.