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Could Ezekiel Elliott Playing Sunday Hurt Cowboys in the Long Run?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott Learning Things Aren't So Easy In NFL
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott is now confirmed to be playing this Sunday in the Dallas Cowboys' season opener against the New York Giants. It feels like a small victory as the war between Elliott and the NFL league office rages on over his suspension for a domestic violence accusation. However, could the end result be a net loss for the Cowboys?

Unless Elliott is granted his injunction by a federal judge, which we should know within the next few days, then his full six-game suspension would begin starting in Week 2 of the NFL season. That would mean Zeke misses the Cowboys' Week 8 game, which is on the road against Washington (Cowboys have their bye on Week 6).

At home versus the Giants, or on the road versus Washington; which division rivalry game would you rather have Elliott for?

Ezekiel Elliott, Giants

RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

There are many ways to look at this question. Last year, the Cowboys got swept by the Giants but then swept Washington. That alone may sell you on wanting Elliott to help you against New York. Still, whether wins or losses, all of these games were close:

  • Week 1 - Giants 20, Cowboys 19
  • Week 2 - Cowboys 27, Washington 23
  • Week 12 - Cowboys 31, Washington 26
  • Week 14 - Giants 10, Cowboys 7

With only four and five-point wins against Washington, it's arguable that not having Zeke may have swung those games the other way. Washington should be improved on defense this year, adding Zach Brown at middle linebacker and former Cowboy Terrell McClain to their defensive line. An 8-8 team last year, the Cowboys' greatest rival is not going to be a pushover in 2017.

In two games against Washington, Cowboys running backs had 205 yards and four touchdowns on 50 carries (4.1 average). In the two games against the Giants, they had 196 yards and one touchdown on 52 carries (3.77 average). It's a difference, but perhaps not as big as you might have assumed. The general perception was that New York handled the Cowboys' offense better than anyone last year, but clearly Washington wasn't far behind.

Another basic element to consider is a home game versus an away game. Being able to dominate time-of-possession and pummel the opposing defense with the run is even more valuable on the road than at home. You can take the excitement, and thus the crowd, out of the game. It's always good to be able to lean on your most reliable strengths in a hostile environment.

Cowboys Blog - Staff Wars: Stay With Run DMC!

RB Darren McFadden versus NY Giants in 2015 (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

The backup running backs also need to be considered. Dallas will be leaning on two veterans, 30-year-old Darren McFadden and 28-year-old Alfred Morris, during Ezekiel Elliott's absence. Common sense says that legs will be fresher in Week One than in Week Eight. Would McFadden be more effective this Sunday against the Giants than seven weeks later in Washington?

Another factor at work is the status of Giants' star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He is still not practicing after an ankle injury two weeks ago and his availability for Week One is in question. If Beckham, the focal point of the Giants offense, misses the game then could the Cowboys have afforded to be without Elliott?

You can take this in a lot of different directions, but clearly it's not as simple as you may have thought initially. Cowboys fans are obviously happy that Zeke will be playing Sunday, hungry for a win against the Giants after those three-straight losses. But they don't hand out Lombardi Trophies, or even NFC East titles, for just those games. The big picture is what really matters.

Cowboys Headlines - 88

RB Alfred Morris celebrates a touchdown against Washington in 2016

One way to look at this is the "bird in hand" argument. Right now, Week 1, we know who's coming to town with these Giants. What's more, there's a chance that Odell Beckham won't be with them. Maybe getting this win right here, right now, will serve us better in the long run.

Who knows what injuries may do by Week 8, and just how good or bad that Washington team may be by mid-October?  Naturally, the same goes for the Cowboys. If Kellen Moore or Cooper Rush are playing in that Week 8 game, who's in at running back might be irrelevant to the outcome.

Hindsight will be the ultimate judge here, but it's still interesting to consider. The possibility that Ezekiel Elliott won't miss a single game in 2017 is still on the table, which would obviously make this a moot discussion. But in a league where a single game can decide a playoff spot or home field advantage, these scenarios and ripple effects are worth looking at.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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14 Comments
  • George_Johnson

    I like your analysis. However since Dallas struggled to beat the Giants last year and the Giants defense seemed to have Dallas’s number, I think it is best to beat the Giants now and with Zeke and a home game this is more likely.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      I agree. I’d rather go Zeke-less for the Skins than NYG. Of course, I’d also like to see decent play calling from Linehan against NYG this year; he was terrible last year.

    • Jess Haynie

      You can really go either way on this one, depending on how you feel about the variety of factors. No wrong answer.

  • Ethan Chazin

    Jess, I will concur with other comments about giants defense, and add they will/should be a TOP 5 D. I want Zeke playing against them, they beat us 2/2 and I don’t care @ OBJ’s availability I still fear their other WRs esp as we have so little depth at CB with our hammy constricted rookie DBs. The Giants are favored to win the Division or come in 2nd so they are the Cowboys most serious threat. Plus by the Redskins week 8 game we get Irving and Moore back from suspension and Hitchens might be back.

    • Jess Haynie

      All great points, Ethan, especially about our young secondary. I’m also nervous about them this Sunday, especially now that it looks like OBJ will be playing.

  • Assassin

    A lawyer friend of mine was in the courtroom yesterday. He predicts, based on the Judges reactions and comments, that Zeke will get the TRO and with appeals will play the entire year.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      Similar to Tom Brady’s case over #DeflateGate. 2017 may not be a concern for Zeke.

  • Randy Martin

    It will be a moot question come Friday!

  • Sam Lane

    Can’t control the future, but can control the now. Playing Zeke whenever possible is common sense, unless the game has no consequence towards playoffs.

    • Jess Haynie

      Definitely one good, simple way to look at it. Sometimes those are the best answers.

  • Corey

    I think this whole mess is B.S. Whatever happened to you had a right to face your accuser? I noticed that this arbitrator didn’t allow that to happen. The NFL and Goodell have just kind of ignored the fact that this woman is a fruit cake. You can’t believe a word that comes out of her mouth, and it is a known fact that she plotted to get him into trouble. Zeke had to put a restraining order on her to keep her away. This nut-job is stalker material. But of course Goodell and the NFL have just looked the other way on all of that. Goodell needs to go. He sucks as commissioner. His policies are all over the place. Elliott made some not so intelligent decisions and Goodell targeted him to make an example out of him.

    • Jess Haynie

      It is hard to understand the league’s attitude in this matter. While I certainly don’t want to advocate blaming the victim, blindly believing is perhaps even more dangerous. The league is sending the message that you can cause a whole lot of a hell for their players with nothing more than an accusation; zero burden of proof.

  • John Williams

    I’m on board with your rationale, but I need Dallas and Dak to get the Giant monkey off their back this week so we can go ahead and put that narrative to bed.

    The Skins defense doesn’t scare me as much and I think the Dallas D actually matches up well with their offense sans Garcon, DeSean Jackson. Pryor and Reed will still be a lot to handle, and Crowder is tough, but they aren’t those other guys.

    • Jess Haynie

      No argument here. I was more just presenting a different possible perspective than my personal viewpoint. I want the Giants to go down hard.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Tavon Austin, Cowboys Best Playmaker Not Named Ezekiel Elliott?

Cada vez más cerca de la verdadera acción en la NFL, tuvimos una oportunidad de ver a los Dallas Cowboys en el campo contra los San Francisco 49ers hace una semana. Francamente, a pesar de perder la ventaja en los últimos segundos del partido, la actuación del equipo dio una muy buena señal a los aficionados de la Estrella Solitaria.

Todavía quedan tres partidos por jugar, empezando por el enfrentamiento contra los Cincinnati Bengals este sábado. Hay muchas cosas que ver de parte de los Dallas Cowboys y quizá algunas de ellas las veamos este mismo fin de semana.

Una de las cosas más interesantes esta semana fue la conversación de los wide receivers (receptores abiertos). Lance Lenoir se ha mostrado como un candidato real al roster de 53 jugadores, pero esa es sólo una pequeña fracción de la conversación de receptores.

Hay muchos receptores de que hablar, y el día de hoy, eso haremos en Cowboys en Español.

¿Cole Beasley es realmente el receptor #1?

A lo largo de todo el offseason, se ha manejado la narrativa de que "los Cowboys no tienen un buen WR." A pesar de que Dez Bryant es un nombre difícil de olvidar, esta aseveración sobre los receptores en Dallas me parece errónea.

Si bien es cierto que Bryant es uno de los mejores WRs en la historia de los Cowboys, también es cierto que Jason Garrett y compañía tienen un mejor grupo de lo que la afición considera. Si somos sinceros, un trío titular de Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley y Michael Gallup no suena mal.

La pregunta será: ¿quién es el #1? Comentarios de Dak Prescott han hecho referencia a Cole Beasley como el dueño de dicho rol. ¿Realmente puede fungir como el receptor líder del equipo siendo un jugador de 1.73 metros?

Se ha hablado mucho de Beasley jugando fuera de los números e intentando vencer a los defensivos por fuera. Es intrigante, pero sin duda un poco difícil de creer.

Tavon Austin: ¿Es un arma más importante de lo que creemos?

Los Cowboys dejaron ir a Ryan Switzer y obtuvieron a su aparente remplazo con el ex-WR de los Rams por una selección de sexta ronda. Tavon Austin ha tenido un viaje extraño con el equipo. Fue listado en el roster como un corredor pero utilizado como un receptor.

Lleva poco tiempo en Dallas pero ha sorprendido en training camp y ha sido utilizado como más de lo que esperábamos. Desde que llegó al equipo, empezamos a compararlo con Lucky Whitehead y Ryan Switzer. Ambos talentosos, pero destinados a ser un jugador "gadget" que fueron utilizados casi exclusivamente en jugadas "en movimiento" o los famosos "jet sweeps."

Pero Austin puede ser más que eso y lo ha demostrado en training camp. No parece que Tavon vaya a tener el mismo destino que Switzer, sino que tendrá un rol mucho más involucrado en la ofensiva constantemente. Bien puede ser un factor sorpresa para la ofensiva en Dallas.

¿Puede Terrance Williams perder su trabajo?

A pesar de que el coraje puede llevar a los aficionados a criticar a Terrance Williams un poco más de lo que merece, la verdad es que Williams está en riesgo de ser cortado por los Cowboys antes de que inicie la temporada en septiembre.

Es uno de los WRs con más experiencia, sí. Pero durante su estadía en Dallas, cada vez que Dez Bryant ha caído lesionado, Williams ha tenido la oportunidad de surgir como un receptor #1 capaz y preparado. Y nunca lo ha logrado.

Con un roster lleno de talentos jóvenes como el de Lance Lenoir y Noah Brown, es probable que la administración y los coaches opten por el potencial joven en vez de Williams, quien ha tenido problemas para demostrar que puede ser un jugador constante.

✭✭✭

Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que conseguir que su ofensiva sobreviva las pérdidas de Jason Witten y Dez Bryant y tendrán que comenzar en la posición de WR. A pesar de que Williams esté en el equipo, Cole Beasley será el único en repetir titularidad del año pasado en Dallas esta temporada.

Dak Prescott tendrá un rol enorme cuando la ofensiva trate de emprender su marcha y definitivamente será responsable del éxito de esta. Es ahora o nunca para Dak.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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#DALvsCIN: Bengals DL Gives Cowboys OL Formidable Test

Kevin Brady

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The Star News - Bengals At Cowboys: ITS Staff Picks And Notes
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

During their preseason opener, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line faced its first test of the season. The young, athletic, and downright talented defensive line of the 49ers gave the Cowboys starting five a chance to gauge their offseason progress thus far.

I'd say the starting group passed the test, while the backups and depth players looked a bit more shaky. The good thing about football, though, is that they get a shot to do it all again this Saturday.

This week's opponent, the Cincinatti Bengals, feature some serious talent upfront. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the best interior defenders in all of football, terrorizing centers and guards since he entered the league.Carl Lawson, Auburn

On the edge is one of my 2017 draft favorites, Carl Lawson. Lawson was a draft target of mine for the Cowboys, but it appears the entire league missed on the stud edge rusher during that draft. During his rookie season a year ago, Lawson racked up 8.5 sacks and looked like the best rookie rusher in all of football. It's rare that a rookie defensive end tallies the sack total that Lawson did in 2017, but then again, Lawson is a rare type of player.

Opposite of Carl Lawson is veteran pass rusher Carlos Dunlap. Together, Atkins and Dunlap have been one of the more dangerous pass rush duos for quite some time, but the additions of Lawson and Jordan Willis make them an incredibly impressive group.

During the Bengals' preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, their defensive line looked to be in midseason form.

Though Geno Atkins had the team's only sack, the trio of Atkins, Lawson, and Dunlap looked as prolific as ever.

This deep and talented defensive line is a more-than worthy test for the Cowboys this Saturday. Rookie Connor Williams will likely have to block Geno Atkins at some point, and though he looked promising against the 49ers, this week presents a whole different challenge.

Many now expect veteran center Travis Frederick to miss Saturday's game as well, due to his shoulder troubles during training camp. If Frederick were to miss the start, Joe Looney would be thrown into the first against this first team defensive front of the Bengals.

A rookie at left guard and Looney at center might not be the best ingredients against Geno Atkins and company, but it'll be what they have to roll with.

Still, Saturday will give us another chance to see what the 2018 Dallas Cowboys offensive line is all about.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Has Breakout Day in Camp

Jess Haynie

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Randy Gregory

The return of Defensive End Randy Gregory is already one of the best stories of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 training camp. If nothing else, his efforts to get to a better place in life and earn reinstatement from the NFL are a huge success. But if yesterday's practice was any indication, Gregory may be about to achieve even more.

According to the staff writers at DallasCowboys.com, Gregory was the standout performer during Wednesday's activities in Oxnard. Here is just a sampling of the praise heaped on the 25-year-old pass rusher:

"He was a beast. Didn’t matter if he was going up against Pro Bowl tackle Tyron Smith or his backups. Nor did it matter which side he was rushing from." (Mickey Spagnola)

"It doesn’t happen often, but tip of the cap to Randy Gregory getting around Tyron Smith twice in a span of three plays during team period. Smith’s pass set wasn’t poor it was just Gregory’s first step that gave him problems." (Bryan Broaddus)

"He’s so explosive off the line of scrimmage. It’s really something to see. But the thing that keeps impressing me is how he’s developed his upper body and added weight while away from the team." (Rob Phillips)

"In the blink of an eye, Randy Gregory had turned the corner and “downed” Dak Prescott for a sack. It happened so fast that Prescott didn’t even bother to throw the ball. To be perfectly frank, I did a double-take and assumed Gregory had beaten Cam Fleming on the rep. Nope — it was Tyron Smith." (David Helman)

That Randy was beating Tyron Smith out there is noteworthy. Aside from just Tyron's usual reputation and yearly trips to the Pro Bowl, he was recently praised by teammate Travis Frederick for having his best camp in several years.

We've waited three years to see Gregory finally realize his potential. The Cowboys spent a second-round pick on Gregory in 2015, despite huge red flags about his drug issues, because of that upside. On talent alone, Randy likely would've been a first-round pick that year.

It's still August, of course, and Gregory will have to keep it up in the regular season to truly arrive on the NFL scene. But reports like these out of camp are so encouraging, and particularly when you know the story of this kid and what he's had to do to even make it this far.

Randy Gregory, Eagles

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

With DeMarcus Lawrence now a franchise star on one end of the defensive line, Randy Gregory's ascension could give the Cowboys the best pass-rushing duo they've had since at least DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, or perhaps even the 1990s.

As good as the flashes now against Tyron Smith and others in practice are, perhaps the best news from those reports were Rob Phillips' comments about Gregory's physical development.

With so much time away from football, Randy's conditioning and body composition were an initial concern when he came back. Clearly, Gregory was putting in the work even while away from the team to be physically ready to resume his career. It will also help him to keep performing through the year, and not wearing down as he has in the past.

Hopefully we'll see Randy Gregory make his preseason debut this Saturday evening when the Cowboys host the Cincinnati Bengals. Again, that will be a wonderful achievement for him on its own merit.

But if he can put on a show for long-waiting Cowboys fans, even in the preseason, then it could be a very special night.



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