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Can Rod Smith Help Lighten Ezekiel Elliott’s Heavy Workload?

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Need More From RB Rod Smith 1

Nothing's guaranteed yet with four games remaining in the 2018 regular-season, but it looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will not only win the NFC East division, but claim the playoff spot that goes with it. They have scratched and clawed their way back into contention and might need to start thinking about what comes next.

I know it's a little early to start thinking about the playoffs, but the Cowboys have a real shot at closing out the remainder of the season unbeaten. Anything can happen of course, but if the Cowboys continued to play like they did against the Saints, I don't see a team remaining on the schedule who can beat them.

With that in mind, I've started to think about what Dallas needs to do in order to be at their best when the playoffs get underway. Getting everybody as healthy as possible is probably the most important in my opinion, especially with quite a few key players banged up.

Luckily, there are several key players who could be returning to the lineup this week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Tyron Smith (neck/back), Sean Lee (hamstring), Tavon Austin (groin), and David Irving (high ankle sprain) all look to be on track to play this week, but they're not the only ones who are banged up.

You may not have noticed with all of the excitement during the game against the New Orleans Saints, but Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was noticeably limping throughout the game and had to take himself out on a number of occasions. I don't know about you, but I find that highly concerning considering how important he is to the Cowboys offense.

Ezekiel Elliott has pretty much been a one-man show this season. No other RB on the roster has done much of anything in the running game, but I think it might be time for that to change a little bit.

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

It should come to no surprise, but Zeke has rarely come off the field this season. He has already almost played as many snaps this year (694) as he did in all of his rookie season in 2016 (714). That means he's taking quite a pounding as not only a runner and receiver, but as a pass protector as well. Each and every shot he absorbs takes a toll on his body.

The Dallas Cowboys would be wise to lighten Ezekiel Elliott's workload a little bit moving forward, which is hopefully where Rod Smith comes in. He is #2 on the depth chart, but you wouldn't know it by his usage and production so far this season.

To date, Rod Smith is averaging a measly 2.5 yards per carry on 23 attempts for 58 rushing yards. He's only played a total of 80 offensive snaps, which is just one more than Full Back Jamize Olawale and we all know how seldom he plays. I don't know about you, but I find that more than a little concerning.

Rod Smith was a playmaker as a fill-in last season while Zeke served his league mandated six-game suspension. He was productive running the ball between the tackles and as a receiver out of the backfield, but hasn't done much of that at all this season. Why?

Does the Cowboys coaching staff no longer trust him? Has he lost a step? Maybe it's because they've played in so many close games? I don't have the answers to these questions, but something needs to be done if Dallas wants Ezekiel Elliott at his best come playoff time.

The Dallas Cowboys need to find somebody to help lighten the workload on Zeke's shoulders. If it's not Rod Smith, maybe Tavon Austin. He did have six carries for 55 yards before his injury, mostly on "gadget" plays. Maybe the answer is Darius Jackson. He's just sitting on the Cowboys practice squad right now.

Whatever the Dallas Cowboys decide, they need to do so pretty quickly. Ezekiel Elliott is just far too important to risk running into the ground, especially with a playoff berth all but secured.

Who do you think should help lighten Ezekiel Elliott's heavy workload?



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.

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4 Comments
  • Lous8

    I like Jackson and I think they should give him that shot

    • Nspirals

      I agree with you. Rod Smith was great last year, but this year something is different. He has less burst and when he gets the ball, it seems like we usually lose yardage. I’d like to see what Darius can do.

  • Tony Hill

    I were say we need another quality. back for Zeke in some started about Rod Smith. Rod Smith is a great Special team players and a very average RB we got to get another back next season to take some presser off Ezekiel Elliott plus rest in game before he get hurt. I said because before Hunt got released. But once he did get released i post i would love him to back zeke. But either way we need anther back

  • cashmagnet

    Rod Smith lacks vision and burst… PERIOD. I don’t like him as a pinch hitter for Zeke because he just isn’t that good….In my opinion Alfred Morris was a lot better. Yes, Ezekiel Elliott isn’t fully healthy right now. And with a banged up runner plying his trade behind a banged up line we’d have to have a better option than Rod Smith to fall back on in order to avoid placing the game in Dakota Prescott’s uncertain hands…

    Just Sayin’…

    Clifford
    Sta. Monica

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Scott Linehan’s Job Shouldn’t Be Safe

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Revamped Offense Relies on Scott Linehan to Succeed 3

The Dallas Cowboys didn't look like they did during their five game winning streak when they entered Lucas Oil Stadium to face a hot Indianapolis Colts team. In fact, they had one of their poorest showings of all season, failing to score a single point all game. Heading home after being shutout 23-0, there isn't much to be said about the Cowboys' performance.

Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday. This time, instead of talking about many takeaways, I needed to get one big takeaway off my chest. I hope you enjoy. Make sure to let me know how you feel about this topic in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL.

Scott Linehan's Job Shouldn't Be Guaranteed Going into the Playoffs

As tough as it is to fire one of your three main coaches when your team is headed into the postseason, the Dallas Cowboys should not rule out moving on from Scott Linehan. One win away from clinching the NFC East, it's not something you easily pull off but Linehan's play calling has been terrible all year long.

The truth is, despite Dak Prescott's struggles and a disastrous offensive line, the offense shouldn't be as inefficient as it is.

Watching a unit that counts with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott run a screen pass to Allen Hurns on fourth down and 14 was truly a microcosm of what this year has been for the offense.

Despite having a playoff berth practically clinched, the Cowboys should consider a change at offensive coordinator. Even if they don't fire Linehan, it's clear his play-calling is not good and could cost this team a real opportunity at a legit shot in the postseason. It would be an aggressive measure, without a doubt. The Minnesota Vikings did something similar by firing John DeFillippo a week ago. Based on their 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, being aggressive sometimes pays.

3 Quick Fixes to Jumpstart Cowboys Anemic Offense 3

The Cowboys have arguably the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott and yet they continue to misuse him. Whether it's turning their backs on their star tailback or over-using him, this offense has a hard time reaching balance. Dak Prescott's strengths could be exploited even more, but this OC refuses to do so.

As hard as it is to make a drastic change in coaching two weeks before the regular season ends, it truly could end up being a great move by the front office. Sure, Amari Cooper has had monster games since joining the Cowboys, but he could be even more dangerous under another coach.

Cowboys versus Colts was a coaching battle between Scott Linehan and former Dallas Cowboys LB coach, Matt Eberflus. It was the matchup of the week, and one we expected to be fun. Instead, we saw one side completely dominate the other. In the NFL, coaching matters. Probably even more than talent on a roster.

The biggest problem would be, who'd take over play-calling?

Since there isn't a promising candidate within the team, the team's only option would probably be letting HC Jason Garrett take over. It may not be ideal, but it could end up being an improvement over Linehan. Of course, it could also let the front office see what Garrett has to offer as a play caller and consider that when deciding how this coaching staff will look like in 2019.

It's unlikely that we see such a thing occur for the Cowboys, but if the offense has another letdown game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I don't see how the front office doesn't at least consider this. They should.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Scott Linehan’s Job Shouldn’t Be Safe" 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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Game Notes

Ezekiel Elliott Productive in Cowboys Blowout Loss to Colts

John Williams

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3 Stars from Dallas Cowboys Loss to the Seattle Seahawks

It was as ugly of a performance as we’ve seen from the Dallas Cowboys in the Jason Garrett era. For the first time in a decade and a half, the Cowboys were shut out and it was a game full of bad pretty much everywhere you looked. Everywhere accept Ezekiel Elliott.

What a waste! 

Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line played well for much of the game even with All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin missing his first career start and losing starting Left Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo went out with an eye injury. 

On the day, Ezekiel Elliott carries the ball 18 times for 87 yards and added another seven receptions for 41. 25 touches for 128 total yards is a good game, but with nothing else going right for the Cowboys it was a game that ultimately didn’t matter. 

The one play where Elliott and the offensive line failed to come through was early in the game in a fourth and one that the Colts defense seemed to have snuffed out and blew up from the start. Elliott was able to convert a fourth and one later in the game. It looked like Elliott was close to breaking one for a long run several times but got tripped up at the end of the runs. He was his typical self this week. Taking runs that looked to be going for a loss and turning them into positive gains. 

In the race for the NFL's rushing title, Elliott has extended his lead on Todd Gurley to nearly 100 yards rushing. At 1,349 rushing yards on the season, Elliott will have a great shot to set a career high in rushing yards with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants remaining on the schedule. The Bucs have allowed the sixth most rushing yards and the fourth most rushing touchdowns in the NFL this season while the Giants have allowed the fifth most rushing yards and the seventh most rushing touchdowns in 2018.

It was a horrendous loss at a time when the Cowboys could have locked up the NFC East and there is zero excuse for it. They got out coached, out played, and were beaten physically on both sides of the ball and that doesn't happen very often, especially to the defense.

But if we're looking for something positive to take away from this game, it's that with all the offensive line injuries and the poor play of the passing game, Ezekiel Elliott and the running game continues to find ways to shine. With as bad as the loss was, that's something to hang your hat on.

All the Cowboys need to do moving forward is Feed Zeke!



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Can't Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts

What is there to say about the Dallas Cowboys week 15 performance? After five straight wins, the last three coming at home, the Cowboys have only a return home to look forward to, facing the 5-9 Buccaneers on Sunday after a 23-0 defeat at the Colts.

Shutout for the first time since 2003, the Cowboys playoff hopes didn't take a hit despite the Redskins and Eagles winning on the road. Washington's last-second win went final just before the Colts ran the clock out on a game the Cowboys simply weren't ready for.

The Cowboys moved the ball well at times but failed to ever come away with points, opening the door for the Colts to expose this defense like it hasn't been all season. The Cowboys front four was hardly a factor on defense, allowing Colts Running Back Marlon Mack to average 5.1 yards a carry. Scoring the Colts only touchdowns, Mack and Andrew Luck assured the Cowboys running game wouldn't be a factor with their 10-0 halftime lead. Down to three backups at LG, C, and RG, Quarterback Dak Prescott stood little chance to bring the Cowboys back as the second half quickly got away from Dallas.

Internally, the Cowboys will have much more to say about their effort on Sunday, but here are just a few of my observations in the first somber edition of Sean's Scout since week nine.

  • The Cowboys defensive problems up front extended well into the second level, with Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both playing one of their worst games of the season. 

The Colts took a blocked Brett Maher field goal 44 yards for the game's opening score. Mack accounted for 34 of these yards and the touchdown. On his seven yard run to set up first and goal, Smith was caught taking a poor angle on Mack. The Cowboys were aggressive rushing up the field on the play, with Smith ending up being in the best position to slow Mack.

Vander Esch was sealed and couldn't fight to get off, which happened again three plays later on third and goal. Leighton looking like a rookie for the first time was just the start of the Cowboys problems, and with Sean Lee being active yet conceding starting snaps to him, it shouldn't take long for Vander Esch to figure things out again.

  • Jamize Olawale's dropped touchdown on third and goal to bring up a failed fourth and one was the moment the Cowboys were taken out of this game. 

This sequence was particularly deflating because the Cowboys did a great job getting down the field to have an opportunity to score. The fourth down decision to run out of a heavy formation, inviting extra defenders to the line of scrimmage, looks especially egregious when stacked against the Amari Cooper rush that picked up the Cowboys initial first down. Rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz got involved, Elliott ripped off a 24 yard run, and the Cowboys still came away empty on this drive.

A year removed from coaching the Cowboys linebackers, Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus had his way with Scott Linehan's offense all afternoon, stymieing their most promising drive after Olawale should have scored easily.

  • The Cowboys only chance to get back in the game was taken away from them by a Joe Looney holding call, just another example of players that had carried them through a winning streak not playing up to standard. 

The Colts took the second half kickoff down the field to extend the lead to 17-0. On fourth and two on the ensuing possession, Prescott hit an injured Cole Beasley for 18 yards to the Colts' 23-yard line. The Cowboys red zone offense certainly doesn't provide the confidence that Dallas would finish the drive, but Looney's hold negated Beasley's catch and forced a punt.

The Colts tacked on a field goal and finished out the game without the Cowboys threatening again. Looney played down to the level of Adam Redmond to his left, who replaced Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Connor Williams in for Zack Martin - though I thought Williams held up fairly well and should be in play to earn more snaps wherever needed.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys can regroup and still accomplish everything they set out for this season, forced to make this loss to the Colts and afterthought like their last one to the Titans became. A five game win streak as a response is out of reach, but a streak of just one is all Dallas needs to clinch the NFC East and focus on improvements for the playoffs.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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