When asked about the running backs at the Dallas Cowboys rookie mini-camp a few weeks ago, Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones didn’t hesitate saying, “I was really impressed with the running back from Wake Forest here today.”
The Wake Forest running back Jones was referring to is undrafted free agent rookie Josh Harris. The 5-9 206 pound 23 year old Harris averaged 4.6 yards per carry over his Wake Forest career and rushed for 2,195 yards for the Demon Deacons. He struggled at time with injuries, but when he was on the field he made the most of his opportunities.
Josh did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine, but according to reports, Harris ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at his pro day, which would have been good for the second fastest time at the combine. Harris also reportedly bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times which again would have put him in second place at the combine behind only Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon who had 32 reps.
I asked Harris if he heard the feedback from Stephen Jones, and what it felt like to hear that praise.
“I talked to a few of the coaches and they told me to keep doing what I’ve been doing. So I’m just trying to keep working hard,” said Harris.
What impressed me most about Josh was his playing speed. It looked like he was playing at a different tempo at times. His quickness and vision to burst through holes during 7 on 7 drills was noticeable. He also caught the ball extremely well. Once Harris got into the open field, he had a great change of direction and looked fluid. I asked him if his quickness is the best aspect of his game and he said,
“I try to use my quickness and speed to my advantage and use it as often as I can. I feel like that’s what sets me apart from other players.”
As of now, the Cowboys have not yet announced an official decision to invite Harris to training camp. The Cowboys have five running backs on their 90-man roster including DeMarco Murray, 2013 backups Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, recently signed veteran Ryan Williams, and Texas A&M undrafted free agent rookie Ben Malena.
Nobody is going to challenge starter DeMarco Murray for his spot, but question marks surround Dunbar coming off a knee injury in 2013. Veteran Ryan Williams also carries an injury risk having played in only five games in three years for the Arizona Cardinals. Randle impressed at times last season, but wasn’t consistent.
The rookie Malena could prove to be Harris’ biggest competition for gaining a roster position. Malena certainly put up a great showing during the rookie minicamp, as he has some real pop to his game and he caught the ball well. I didn’t think Ben had the same burst that Josh exhibited, however.
While the battle will be difficult for Josh to make it to Cowboys training camp, he is no stranger to the popularity of America’s Team, having been born in Dallas and growing up in Duncanville, Texas. I asked what it meant to him working out for the Cowboys and he responded,
“It’s just amazing because I’ve spent my whole life watching all the Cowboys games. Working out for this team is a blessing. It’s a wonderful honor to be here this weekend.”
It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys offer Harris a spot on their training camp roster. The club certainly has enough question marks surrounding the running backs to go slightly heavy at the position, in my mind. I think the Cowboys would benefit from taking a longer look at Harris in Oxnard, California.