Cowboys Nation is bracing themselves for the possibility that Ezekiel Elliott could be hit with a suspension from the NFL. Rumors have circulated that Elliott is looking at a one or two game suspension, but there are several reasons why Dallas Cowboys fans shouldn't worry too much.
Ezekiel Elliott without a doubt took the Dallas Cowboys offense to a new level as a rookie in 2016 and was looking to build upon that performance this season. He will still have his chance to prove why he is one of the best running backs in the entire NFL, but he may have to do it a few games into the season.
If Elliott does miss the first two games to open up 2017 season, I believe the Dallas Cowboys are still more than capable of putting enough points on the board to beat the New York Giants and Denver Broncos. Below are my three reasons why I'm not too worried about the possible suspension to Ezekiel Elliott.
Reason #1: Cowboys' Offensive Line
It's really become commonplace to refer to the Dallas Cowboys offensive line as being one of the best in the entire NFL. There may be some reshuffling of a few positions in 2017, but they are still headlined by three Pro Bowl players who are among the best at their given positions.
Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin will pave the way for whoever is taking handoffs in the event Ezekiel Elliott is indeed suspended. La'el Collins is hopefully going to be an upgrade in 2017 at right tackle and whoever earns the starting left guard position should be just fine sandwiched between Smith and Frederick.
It's this unit that will keep the Dallas Cowboys offense rolling if an Elliott suspension happens, which is one of the reasons why I believe Cowboys fans shouldn't worry too much. They will continue to dominate by opening up running lanes for the RB and by protecting Dak Prescott in the passing game. It's just what they do and will continue to do despite any suspensions.
Reason #2: Backup RBs Are Capable Fill Ins
There's no denying that Ezekiel Elliott is arguably one of the best running backs in the entire NFL. What he accomplished his rookie season was simply amazing, but that doesn't mean the Cowboys can't survive a few games without him. That is because they have a couple of capable backups already on the roster who can fill in.
Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris have proven themselves capable of being starting RBs in the NFL, and it's that veteran experience that could be invaluable if Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. McFadden has already had a 1,000 yard season behind the Cowboys offensive line, but he's not necessarily the best fit to run in the zone blocking scheme. Morris on the other hand is a better fit, but doesn't provide the same kind of versatility as McFadden.
The Cowboys have time to figure out which running back would be the best suited to step in if Elliott can't go. McFadden or Morris are both capable of filling in and finding success, which is another reason why I think Cowboys fans shouldn't worry too much about an Ezekiel Elliott suspension.
Reason #3: WRs Can Carry The Offense
The Dallas Cowboys are going to have the deepest wide receiver position they have had in recent memory. I fully expect the passing game to reach a new level in 2017. It's become well-known that the Cowboys have a run first mentality on offense, but the wide receivers are more than capable of carrying the team on their shoulders.
Dak Prescott is looking to improve on his fantastic rookie season and he has the weapons at his disposal to do just that. Even without Ezekiel Elliott in the equation, the Cowboys have an abundance of playmakers to move the ball up and down the field and put points on the board.
Dez Bryant should return to his old form after having to play through injuries the last several seasons. Cole Beasley has become one the best slot receivers in the entire NFL and is a mismatch for anybody who tries to cover him. Terrance Williams is better than a lot of people give credit to and Ryan Switzer should add another element to the passing game.
This is shaping up to be an impressive group who could be leaned upon if the running game is struggling or in the event Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. This happens to be the biggest reasons why I don't think Cowboys fans should worry too much about Elliott's potential suspension.
Are you still worried about Ezekiel Elliott's suspension?
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
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