In four seasons, we have not seen a whole lot of Rico Dowdle in Dallas. The Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina in 2020, and he stuck on the roster as a rookie, playing special teams and tallying seven rushing attempts as the third-stringer behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
A hip injury torpedoed his 2021 season, though, and an ankle injury limited him to five games last season. This year, with Elliott gone, Dowdle has made some relief appearances for Pollard, but still has just 35 carries on the year for 133 yards.
But that could change soon. According to ESPN insider Dan Graziano, expect to see more Dowdle in the second half of the Cowboys season.
“In spite of rumors linking them to the Titans’ Derrick Henry, I’m told the Cowboys did not engage teams in talks for running backs. They like their running back room,” Graziano wrote. “To that point, don’t be surprised to see a few more carries for backup Rico Dowdle in the coming weeks. The Cowboys still believe in Tony Pollard, and they believe their offensive line’s performance is a bigger part of their run game struggles than their lead back.
“But they also acknowledge the run game isn’t working the way they need it to, and mixing in Dowdle is one way they could try to address it in the short term.”
Cowboys’ McCarthy Was ‘Impressed’ by Rico Dowdle
In the preseason, it appeared that Dowdle would be in line for more work this year. He beat out rookie Deuce Vaughn for the role of Pollard’s backup, and was impressive in training camp. He carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards in the preseason, a healthy average of 4.7 yards per carry.
McCarthy was happy with Dowdle’s showing in the offseason and came into the year with high expectations for the 25-year-old runner.
“I’ve been impressed with Rico Dowdle since the first year,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “I love his running style. He runs angry. He pass-protects with a lot of urgency. He sticks his nose in there. … I think we’re just seeing Rico finally healthy. He’s had a tough four years here. Very instinctive. Very bright. Very good, young football player.”
Dallas Rushing Game Has Struggled
But when it has come time to use Dowdle, McCarthy has not done it all that much. He is just 66th in total carries this year. Granted, the Cowboys’ rushing game in general has been disappointing, as Graziano mentioned.
The Cowboys enter Week 10 with 893 rushing yards, 15th in the NFL, and with an average yards per carry of 3.9, 20th in the league. Last year, the Cowboys ranked ninth in rushing yards at 2,298, and were 18th with 4.3 yards per carry.
That might be more about the inconsistency of the offensive line all season, as the unit has dealt with injuries and a lack of continuity. Tyron Smith struggled with injuries last year and has missed three games this year, and Terence Steele has not been 100% as he comes back from ACL surgery.
Still, more carries for Rico Dowdle might help. In limited action, he has earned a grade of 70.3 from Pro Football Focus, slightly better than Pollard’s 66.9. He has, as McCarthy says, an angry style of running. The Cowboys’ rush game could use that.