The Dallas Cowboys finished the part of training camp that every NFL team wishes to avoid: roster cuts. Every team wishes they could keep all of the players they bring into camp. All these players wish they could stay on the roster and help that team out in some way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, that isn't how things work in the real world.
What is good for Dallas and every other NFL team is that there are always guys who manage to find their way into the main roster and help their teams win games. One player on the Cowboys' 53-man roster who could make an impact right away is fourth-year running back Rico Dowdle.
Cowboys roster cut survivor: Rico Dowdle
Rico Dowdle is entering his fourth season after playing his college ball at the University of South Carolina. Dowdle's rushing totals aren't the most prolific college stats ever seen. Over four seasons, he ran for 2,167 yards at a 5.1 yards-per-carry clip. But Dowdle did lead his South Carolina teams in rushing more often than not despite sharing a backfield with eventual NFL running backs in Ty'Son Williams and Kevin Harris. South Carolina also leaned mostly into an aerial attack after attracting receivers like Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith, and Josh Vann. Subpar quarterback play as well as tough competition in the SEC held Dowdle and the Gamecocks' offense back to a degree, but Dowdle was fairly productive given the circumstances.
Dowdle went undrafted after declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, but eventually latched on with the Dallas Cowboys. It's easy to see why. Dowdle was a starter in college, has prototypical size at 5-10 215 pounds, can catch the ball (Dowdle caught 62 receptions during his college career), and ran a solid 4.54 40-yard dash during his pre-draft process. Unfortunately, Dowdle didn't get drafted and his traits haven't led to much NFL production through three seasons. That part is understandable when competing with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott for touches. But still,Dowdle likely envisioned he'd have more than seven carries through his first three NFL seasons.
How did Rico Dowdle survive the Cowboys' roster cuts?
Rico Dowdle hasn't been a priority with the Dallas Cowboys so far in his career, but there was an opportunity for someone in that Dallas backfield behind Tony Pollard to emerge with some kind of role after training camp. Ezekiel Elliott was not retained and he eventually signed with the New England Patriots. All the Cowboys did to replace him was sign Ronald Jones, who is suspended for the first two games of the season due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
They also drafted Deuce Vaughn, who was super productive at Kansas State but is far from a prototypical workhorse back. Furthermore, they retained Malik Davis, an undrafted rookie running back from the University of Florida.
Fast forward to the end of camp and the person who has the hold of the Cowboys' backup running spot is Dowdle.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 27, 2023
The Cowboys waived Malik Davis but did bring him back onto their practice squad. Deuce Vaughn did have a more productive preseason than Dowdle, averaging 6.3 yards per carry on eight carries and scored a touchdown. But Dowdle projects as a slightly better complement to Pollard. He can ease some of the grimy workload off of Pollard to keep him fresh and avoid making the starting RB take an excess of hits.
Because of this, it shouldn't be that farfetched to see Dowdle get a few carries a game. And if (God forbid) anything happened to Tony Pollard, Dowdle would be the next man up. Dowdle is going to have a role and help this team right away. Not bad for someone who was on the roster bubble entering training camp.