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Cowboys roster rundown: Make or break year for Dallas RBs

The Dallas Cowboys have a dynamic duo at running back but there are still questions that Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard must answer in 2022.

DALLAS — As the Dallas Cowboys get ready for training camp on July 27, here is a look at the roster broken down by position.

Next up is running back, and 2022 will prove to be a pivotal year for both of the Cowboys' top two rushers.

Ezekiel Elliott is starting to show mileage put on the odometer. It isn't so much that the two-time NFL rushing champion is 27 years old as it is that Elliott has been in the league since 2016 and logged 88 games over six seasons. It isn't an indictment, but rather a statement of fact that the best years for Elliott are probably behind him.

Of course, it doesn't preclude the All-Pro running back from having a great year in 2022. Elliott has spent the offseason getting ready for another 17-game campaign. The former 2016 first-round pick did not miss a single game last year despite sustaining a partially torn PCL in the Week 4 win over the Carolina Panthers. Elliott recorded his fourth 1,000-yard season in six tries with 1,002 and 10 touchdowns on 237 carries.

For Elliott, who enters the last year of his contract being guaranteed, he will need to show the organization that he is much more valuable to the roster than just as a ball carrier. Elliott has been a team leader and a key figure in the locker room since his arrival.

However, pro football is still a business, and the Cowboys will be eyeing his $16.7 million salary cap hit for elimination next offseason if he doesn't produce. The Cowboys have a potential out next offseason by designating him a post-June 1 cut and saving $10.9 million while eating $5.82 million in dead money, according to Over The Cap 

Elliott told reporters he is more concerned with helping the Cowboys win a world championship than what could be the last year in Dallas.

"I control what I can control," Elliott told reporters on June 2 during organized team activities. "I focus on what’s in the near future. Not really worried about what’s going to be going on after next season unless we’re going on tour for winning the Super Bowl."

Tony Pollard, the complementary back to Elliott, enters the final year of his rookie deal. The former 2019 fourth-rounder from Memphis tallied 169 touches for 1,056 yards and two touchdowns. Pollard's 6.2 yards per touch made him a dynamic weapon in both the passing game and the rushing attack.

As receiver Michael Gallup works his way back from an ACL injury sustained in Week 17 last year, Pollard figures to be more of an element in the passing game. The 6’-0”, 209-pound back caught 39 passes for 337 yards — both career highs — through 15 games last year.

Rico Dowdle will have a chance to entrench himself as the No. 3 behind Elliott and Pollard. The former 2020 undrafted free agent from South Carolina sustained a hip injury that obliterated his 2021 campaign before it could begin. Undrafted rookies Malik Davis (Florida) and Aaron Shampklin (Harvard) figure to challenge Dowdle, and at the very minimum provide depth on the practice squad after the 53-man cuts.

The Cowboys are carrying two fullbacks in Ryan Nall and Nick Ralston. Nall spent the last three seasons with the Chicago Bears and caught nine passes for 71 yards and a touchdown while rushing six times for 12 yards through 33 games. Ralson, a former Argyle High School alumnus and LSU product, played four games for Dallas last season, logging 60 special teams snaps and one on offense.

Do you think the Cowboys will have a top tier running back corps in 2022? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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