The 2019 Dallas Cowboys debuted in style with their Week 1 smashing of the New York Giants. But while the passing game was on fire, the Cowboys' vaunted rushing attack didn't do much damage. Will their be more offensive balance this week as the team heads to New York for the rivalry rematch?
Dallas didn't need much from Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to rout the Giants last time around. Dak Prescott put up over 400 yards and four touchdowns, plus a perfect passer rating, as the Cowboys showed off what their passing game could do now with Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator.
Zeke and Pollard each got 13 carries that day. Elliott ran for 53 yards and a touchdown with a 4.1 average while the rookie had just 24 yards. Their combined effort produced just 77 yards on 26 carries, which was just below 3.0 yards per attempt.
Granted, this game could follow the same script. After eight weeks the Giants are 22nd against the run and 25th against the pass. That's not a wide margin, but it confirms what we saw in the last game when the Cowboys were able to throw it all over the field. They may lean on that strategy again given how effective it was eight weeks ago.
But we also had a Cowboys offense then with all of its receiver fully healthy, plus a new look to the passing under Moore's direction. We had Dak Prescott doing new and improved things after spending the summer with his new QB Coach, Jon Kitna.
New York knows it can't come out and do the same stuff on defense that they tried in Week 1. As they adjust to Dallas' passing offense, which is currently ranked 3rd overall in the NFL, that should make life easier for Elliott, Pollard, and the run game.
Since Zeke entered the NFL in 2016 the Giants have been consistently good at slowing him down compared to other teams. Despite his career YPA of 4.64, Elliott has manged just 4.01 yards per rushing attempt against New York in five games.
The Giants have been dedicated to maintaining a strong defensive line for a decade. Going back to 2010, New York has spent two 1st-round picks, four 2nd-rounders, and six 3rd-round picks on defensive ends and tackles.
Granted, this year they are struggling across the board. But if the Giants are ever good at any one aspect of football, it tends to be stopping the run based on the focus and investment in their defensive front.
While Cowboys fans will be happy with the win regardless of how it comes, we also have the secondary desire to see Ezekiel Elliott continue dominating the NFL run game. Zeke has led the league in rushing production every year since he was drafted, but is current trailing in the 2019 race.
As of now, Zeke is just 5th in the league with 86.0 rushing yards per game. The current leader is Cleveland's Nick Chubb with 105.4 YPG.
If Elliott is going to retake his throne this year he has to get going pretty quickly. The opportunities are going to dry up fast as we cross the midway point of the season.
We'll soon see how Monday's game unfolds. Will Ezekiel Elliott dominate on prime time TV, will Tony Pollard cut into his usage, or will the Cowboys' passing game once again do the heavy lifting?