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Mike McCarthy: Cowboys to have 'running back by committee' approach in 2024

Mike McCarthy uttered a not-so-popular phrase for fantasy football managers on Saturday.

When asked if he expects Ezekiel Elliott to return to form in his return to Dallas this season, the Cowboys head coach revealed the team's overall strategy at running back for 2024.

"We're running back by committee," McCarthy told reporters. "But I think he'll definitely play at the level that he's played, I know, in my time here. I anticipate that. I don't see any drop off in the way he moves. He's in good shape. ... He's come in here and picked up right where he's left off."

The strategy isn't surprising considering the Cowboys don't have a clear RB1 on the roster. Rico Dowdle led the current group with with 242 yards and two touchdowns last season while spelling Tony Pollard, who signed with the Titans this offseason. Deuce Vaughn, newcomer Royce Freeman, Malik Davis, Snoop Conner and undrafted rookie Nathaniel Peat round out the RB room along with Elliott and Dowdle.

The Cowboys elected not to take a running back in the 2024 NFL Draft despite it being a need on paper. They instead focused on offensive line with the selections of Tyler Guyton (first round) and Cooper Beebe (third round), which figures to aid the rushing attack anyway.

McCarthy, who's headed top-five offenses in two of the past three seasons in Dallas, says he's had experience utilizing the committee approach while further explaining their reasons why.

"Oh, absolutely. I have more experience with that," he said. "I think it's really the times that we're in. ... Seventeen games is a lot of football -- that's a big role for those guys. Don't get me wrong, they'd all like to carry it like the old days and have those touches, but you want those guys fresh at the most important time of the year. So, that's all part of planning and how you look at projections of play time."

Elliott produced consecutive 870-plus yard campaigns during his three seasons with McCarthy (2020-2022), topping out at 1,002 yards in 2021. The former two-time rushing champion drew 642 rushing yards and three TDs (3.5 YPC) during his one season with New England last year. But his return in Dallas as a bona fide leader might be an intangible that proves beneficial for a concerted RB effort.

Sharing the bulk load of carries among RBs has seen success in the NFL, especially with a productive passing attack. The Cowboys hope that strategy prevails in an offense that finished third in the league in passing yards last season.

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