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Cowboys Must Stop Abandoning Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas Cowboys have been a team that has controlled the clock behind a dominant offensive line and the running ability of All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott since his rookie campaign in 2016. This season, however, we’ve seen the maturation of Dak Prescott under first-year Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore who has let the Cowboys signal-caller fully display his arm talent. So much so, that currently, Prescott leads the entire NFL in passing yards and is tied for fourth in passing touchdowns.

The downside to Prescott having a career year is that it’s created a false sense of how the Cowboys operate the best. In particular, the last three games, the Cowboys have gone away from Elliott after he had firmly established his presence and that must change going forward.

In Week 12 vs the New England Patriots, the Cowboys would be tested against one of the best run defenses in the league all season. The challenge was answered by the offensive line as Elliott had 61 yards on 15 carries in the first half. Instead of continuing to pound the ball with Elliott, the Cowboys only ran him six times for 25 yards in the second half of a game that was within seven points or less from start to finish. In this case, the Cowboys should have simply stuck to the formula and wore down the Patriots defense with Elliott instead of making the offense one dimensional. There’s no excuse for Elliott’s final rushing attempt to come with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

A week later vs the Buffalo Bills, the Cowboys again came out by setting the tone with their ground attack. The Bills were a top-three ranked defense but were 20th in the NFL allowing 4.4 yards per rush at the time. The Cowboys took full advantage as Elliott ran for 56 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Unfortunately, like the previous week, the Cowboys went away from their bread and butter as Elliott only carried the ball twice in the second half, with his final attempt coming with around nine minutes to go in the third quarter. That means Elliott didn’t have a carry for the final 24 minutes of game action which is totally inexcusable. Prescott should never have 49 pass attempts with Elliott in the backfield.

This past Thursday night vs the Chicago Bears saw the Cowboys open the game with their most impressive and physically dominant drive of the season. They went 75 yards on 17 plays mostly behind the legs of Elliott who had eight carries for 32 yards and capped the drive off with a touchdown. However, the Cowboy’s workhorse running back was an afterthought the rest of the game as he only saw 11 carries in the final 51 minutes. Once again, the Cowboys got away from their philosophy and became one dimensional as Prescott had his second consecutive game with 49 pass attempts.

Ezekiel Elliott, to use a boxing analogy, is a body puncher at running back. He’s not gonna give you the 50-60 yard chunk runs but rather the consistent four, five and seven-yard carries that mentally wear down a defense. Once he’s set that tone you can’t go away from it. The Cowboys have faced three consecutive top ten defenses and set a physical tone by establishing Elliott early only to stray away from it each time which led to three straight losses.

The Cowboys still sit atop the NFC East at 6-7 and control their own destiny to the playoffs. However, if they wish to get there for the second consecutive season, they must continue to ride the coattails of Elliott once he gets rolling. The Cowboys are 20-4 when Elliott goes over 100 yards since his rookie season, 4-1 in 2019 specifically. With their playoff future in jeopardy, it would be wise for the Cowboys to remember that their go-to method of success is still through Elliott and allowing Prescott to play-action pass off of it.

What do you think?

Matthew Lenix

Written by Matthew Lenix

I write dope stuff about the Dallas Cowboys and what not.

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  1. i think Zeke was gassed last week. He did not have backup. Can’t recall if there was another player outside of Zeke/Dak that had a carry.

    I believe the OL and TE is a huge burden on team. I’d go with making Witten a Coach to keep him on sideline… but, he adds nothing to our offense. His blocks are good for 1yd and 1sec. His routes are so slow and his effort to make the catch is embarassing.

    Moving him off active-roster is addition by subtraction by ensuring we carry an extra back and get opportunities to our younger (better) TEs.

    The OL is just horrible after 1st qtr. They dominate after kickoff and halftime… but, have proven to not be able to sustain a legit run game. Both G’s and C is pretty average… especially, when faced with legit competition on defense.

  2. This is ridiculous rhetoric from a writer who didn’t take into effect the context of why the Cowboys had to give up the run but instead go pass heavy. HINT: It was because of the Defense’s inability to make stops and keep opponents from scoring at will. The Cowboys fell behind by over 2 scores each time, thus they have been forced to try to catch up as quick as possible.

    • But… while your defensive point is well taken, don’t forget that the best defense is to keep the other teams offense off the field. Dallas did that via long sustained drives based on a multidimensional offense with a consistent 3rd down conversion when required.

  3. The problem is that the team is set up for the running game, sure Dak can pass the ball 40 times and get 300 plus yards, but the way for the Cowboys to win, as noted, is to wear down the defense by pounding the ball. The Cowboys are 6-7 with Dak the leading passer in the NFL, yardage-wise, but the team is 6-7. Actually of the top 5 passers, only the Rams at 8-5 have one of those.
    Last year Zeke led the league in rushing and the Cowboys went 10-6 and won the division. This year he’s fifth in the league and the teams 6-7.
    The Cowboys, or Jerry, or whoever, has fallen prey to the “This is a passing league and you have to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 tds to win the SB” mantra.
    But your team has to be set up for that, Cowboys AREN’T…

  4. Everyone benefits from balance.

    OL blocks better when the other team has to respect the run game. Otherwise, the defense can just put their ears back and fly in towards the QB. No OL in history can block well when the team is one dimensional.

    Dak has proven throughout his career that he’s not the Tom Brady kind of guy who can put a team on his back and beat really good teams without everything else going well. Specifically, playing anyone other than really bad teams, Dak has proven that he needs Zeke running well to be successful. Dallas got away from this because they had success vs. some really bad NFC east defenses early in the season with the passing game. Dak has gotten a bit better but he’s still not accurate enough to beat good teams throwing the ball 50 times a game. Romo was good enough to win lots of games despite having crap around him but even he showed that his best year was the year DeMarco Murray won the rushing title and he only had to throw 20 – 25 times a game for 260 yards instead of trying to throw 40 times for 360.

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