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Can Cowboys Passing Game Sustain Without Ezekiel Elliott?

Brian Martin



Can Passing Game Keep Cowboys Afloat Without Ezekiel Elliott?

As things stand right now, the Dallas Cowboys will be without Ezekiel Elliott's services for the next six games. It's a huge blow to the offense, because Elliott has become the centerpiece/focal point and everything feeds off of his production. Without Elliott in the lineup, the Dallas Cowboys are now likely going to have to rely on the passing game, but are they good enough in this area to keep them afloat for the next six weeks?

Yes, I'm well aware that the Dallas Cowboys still have Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden to fill in for Ezekiel Elliott, but they are a huge downgrade. Personally, I think Rod Smith has looked the better of the Cowboys backup RBs, but it's doubtful the coaching staff names him the starter over two proven veterans.

We are going to have to be honest with ourselves. Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, and even Rod Smith can't do what Ezekiel Elliott does. The offense for the Dallas Cowboys is going to suffer as a result of Elliott's suspension and they are going to have to adapt in the meantime. I think that means the passing game needs to improve and quickly.

Dak Prescott and Dez BryantThe passing game for the Dallas Cowboys hasn't exactly been on fire so far this season. There have been far too many times where nearly every receiver has dropped a catchable pass or where Dak Prescott has been off target. That simply can't happen anymore, especially since they don't have Ezekiel Elliott to lean on anymore.

From what I've seen from the Dallas Cowboys passing attack, I don't think they can carry this team in Zeke's absence. That's not to say that they don't have the pieces in place to do that. They just haven't been able to do it on a consistent basis yet.

If you read just about any of my articles pertaining to the Dallas Cowboys offense, then you know all too well my criticism of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's playcalling. I think he is way too predictable and doesn't do enough to put his players in a good enough position to succeed. Life without Zeke is going to make things all that much more difficult for Linehan, but he absolutely has to step up his game.

The best way for the Dallas Cowboys to stay afloat in the NFC East division is for Linehan to figure out a way to make the passing game an extension of the running game. He needs to take a page out of the New England Patriots playbook to see how they utilize their WRs and figure out how to do that with the weapons he has at his disposal.

Dez Bryant, Jason Garrett, Cole BeasleyLuckily, Linehan has Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer. Both WRs are exactly what the Cowboys offense needs to make the passing game an extension of the running game. Beasley and Switzer allow Dak Prescott to get the ball out quickly and pick up yards after the catch. Tom Brady is the master at utilizing his receivers this way and Prescott would be wise to do the same.

Unfortunately, the Dallas Cowboys offense is definitely going to take a step back without Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup. The good news however is they do have other playmakers who can hopefully replace some of Elliott's production. But, it's going to take a collective effort and I don't know if they are up to the challenge.

This is a situation we are all going to be watching very closely over these next six games. We are all just going to have to hope that this team can come together and stay afloat until Ezekiel Elliott returns.

Do you think the Cowboys can stay afloat without Zeke?

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.



  1. Travis Diggs

    November 1, 2017 at 9:01 am

    The two deciding factors on for this question is Scott linehan’s playcalling and who they use the most in the backfield the most. If you keep the defense guessing and get Rod Smith involved I think you have a chance. I dont believe Alfred Morris is your guy. And maybe a little bit of no huddle. Using all three rbs will keep the defenses guessing

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 1, 2017 at 9:05 am

      Travis, you’re absolutely right. Scott Linehan’s playcalling definitely needs to get better. If he doesn’t improve, I don’t think it matters who runs the ball

  2. oneputter

    November 1, 2017 at 9:17 am

    i will also add to the need of calling a good game offensively, its the personnel that is used.
    i fully believe its time to ask witten to step aside and to let swaim take on more of a role in the passing game.

    witten can be used on short yardage plays when first downs are needed. swaim has to be the one to open up the middle of the field, he’s much faster and will keep defenses thinking.

    addtionally, why not use switzer from the slot to stretch the defense, he has to be involved in the passing game.

    finally, dak needs to turn it loose. he’s been holding the ball to long with happy feet. trust the routes, trust the WR’s and let them go get it. i see wr’s open.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 1, 2017 at 9:44 am

      I don’t see them phasing out Jason Witten anytime soon. Swaim looks like he can be a threat in the passing game, but we don’t really have a very big sample size. I think we might start to see more Switzer on offense. I’m hoping we see more quick sets by Prescott so that he can get the ball out quicker. Beasley and Switzer in the lineup would allow him to do that. But, this will all depend on how Scott Lenihan adjust without Zeke in the lineup.

      • oneputter

        November 1, 2017 at 11:38 am

        witten is not scaring the defense anymore, they all know what he is going to do, run to first down marker and sit. his lack of speed more than anything is, IMO, hurting the offense.

        again, not a big sample size because of 82, i’m a huge fan of 82 but there comes a time when the young men need to take over, while the vets play a lesser role.

        i hope we see a lot more of all the WR’s. noah brown needs to be part of this, i think he can be a good one. i don’t remember a game where both 10 and 11 were on the field together.

        yep all on SL at this point, i agree.

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          November 1, 2017 at 12:10 pm

          I don’t disagree at all. Jason Witten isn’t a threat after the catch, but I just don’t see them making that kind of move unless he’s injured. And, I’m a huge fan of Noah Brown. I think he could easily replace Williams. I also think we will start to see a lot more of Beasley and Switzer with Elliott out. They could be an extension of the running game, much like the Patriots do with their WRs.

  3. EverybodyTalks

    November 1, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    I see that comment a lot about Lineman and his play calling. Players still have to make plays and our O-line is finally in synche. The run game, as a result is also getting better. The simple truth is we run the ball. We run downhill. We are easy to figure out. We are not Andy Reid with a ton of gizmo/gadget plays. I did like the one by Linehan, last year, with Dak/Dez to Witten. It would be great to see that one again or a few others. Gimme a couple of those in a game. Still, I think we will see some changes w/o Zeke because the Cowboys can’t lean on him for awhile. I believe Lineman will be up to the task. Last year, he had to redial everything for Dak, when Tony went down. We forget that those adjustments were week to week as Dak progressed. We will see if Lineman can be flexible and adjust to this change. I really want to see Alfred Morris and Rod Smith as the dynamic dual. Alfred softens them up and Rod, at 6’3″-240, becomes the beast. Everyone is saying what about Rod on Special teams. I say put D-Mac on Special Teams. The guy has been inactive all year. People be trippin’ if they think he will be able to just jump in and take over.Teams aren’t prepared for Rod Smith. No film. D-Mac may have fresh legs and may be a veteran, but C’mon. Let him chase down Tyreek and Hunt…that will test those fresh legs.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 1, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      These next six games are going to be huge for Linehan as a play caller. He absolutely has to step up his game and I think we are all hoping he does just that.

  4. dallas1966

    November 10, 2017 at 3:07 am

    Brian, another excellent article. Coach Linehan, will need to be the second coming of Coach Landry. THE Cowboys, have a library with tons of tape on Coach Landry multiple offense, IN addition, to using some of today’s college football spread offense concepts, he has the players in The Bease, Switzer, and Brice Butler, TO pull it off, it’s going to very interesting, these next six weeks, without Zeke, on how innovative Coach Linehan, will be now that’s it’s official that Zeke will be put on the shelf for six weeks. I know for one, the Cowboys need a Tight End, to threaten the deep seem routes, Witten can no longer provide that presences, like a jimmy graham. Keep up the great job Brian.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      November 10, 2017 at 8:44 am

      Thanks for the compliment. I try to write about things that my readers not only find interesting, but what they may be thinking. Linehan did a good job last week getting some of the other WRs against the Chiefs, but he has to continue to find innovative and creative ways to do that now with Zeke out of the lineup. He has the personnel to do so, but he has to find a way to play to each individuals strengths. Hopefully he’s able to do that because the Cowboys have a tough stretch ahead of themselves. They play three games in 11 days.

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Star Blog

2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1

Kevin Brady



Byron Jones

Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.

Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.

Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.

The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas

Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.

The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.

Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.

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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial

Mauricio Rodriguez



Time to Stop Making Excuses for QB Dak Prescott?

Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.

Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.

Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Pues en Dallas, hoy dos  jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.

Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.

Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.

Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.

Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Star Blog

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?



Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 2

Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.

The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.

The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.

Lock Down the Big Guns

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

@Randy81MossRetires, via Twitter

Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.

Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.

As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.

Adding New Talent

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 1

@brkicks, via Twitter

One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.

Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.

If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.

Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.

Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.

The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.

As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.

Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.

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