While some people questioned whether Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard (broken left leg, high ankle sprain) would look like himself at the start of training camp after having surgery in late January, those concerns were alleviated once he started practicing.
In fact, a source said Pollard has looked explosive and not tentative at all, but who plays behind him still remains an issue.
The Dallas Cowboys Are Searching for a Backup RB Behind Tony Pollard
The Cowboys have worked in three UDFAs from three out of the past four drafts — Rico Dowdle (2020), Malik Davis (2022), and Hunter Luepke (2023) — along with rookie Deuce Vaughn (sixth round) and veteran Ronald Jones so far in training camp.
However, Jones will miss practice time due to a groin injury and is also suspended for the first two regular-season games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Vaughn, who is known in scouting circles for his shiftiness and short-area quickness, fell in the NFL Draft due to his diminutive size (5’5”, 179). Though he handled a lot of carries (651 in 37 games/17.6 per game) during his three-year career at Kansas State, some NFL scouting sources still questioned the volume of carries he could handle at the next level.
While Vaughn, Dowdle, Davis, and Luepke have had their good moments in camp, none of them have yet to establish that they could be Pollard’s long-term backup.
Pollard, for his outstanding talent and versatility, has yet to show he can handle a high volume of carries. He only had four games in the regular season of 2022 with 15+ carries, which is why some personnel sources believe they need to add an experienced running back with size by the time the regular season starts.
The best available free agents who would fit this profile are Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Kareem Hunt. Dallas can clearly afford to wait as the list of available veteran running backs is still deep at this point, which could help to explain why they haven’t signed anyone yet.
Rookie DT Mazi Smith Drawing Praise at Cowboys Camp
Defensively, while he’s not known for his pass-rush skill, first-round pick DT Mazi Smith should eventually become a better-than-average pass rusher, an NFL scouting source said.
Smith, who is known for his run-stopping ability and physical strength, which has shown up in training camp so far, projects down the line to be able to get to the passer, the scouting source added.
The source added once he masters the “techniques” of the position at the NFL level, he’ll be able to use his physical strength and outstanding short-area quickness for a player of his size (6’3,” 323) to leverage interior offensive linemen more effectively.
Smith, who was the 26th player selected overall, only registered a half sack during his three-year career at the University of Michigan.