Ezekiel Elliott is off to a slow start in 2019 compared to the rest of his NFL career. But this week’s rivalry match with the Eagles sets up nicely for the Cowboys’ start running back to eat up some yards, thanks largely to some key injuries on Philadelphia’s defense.
While 81.8 yards per game is good enough for 8th among all running backs so far this season, that’s not the kind of production we’re used to from Zeke. He’s lead the league in YPG every year and this would be a career-low stat for him if it continues.
Elliott is on pace to get just over 300 carries this year, which would be close to usual usage rate from the past. The issue has come down to efficiency; he’s only getting 4.3 yards-per-carry compared to the 5.1 and 4.7 marks that he posted in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
But now the Eagles fly into Dallas with three starters missing from their front seven and no significant depth behind them. If Zeke can’t eat in this game, something is horribly broken with this Cowboys offense.
Philadelphia will be without DT Tim Jernigan due to a foot injury. He was already a replacement player for starter Malik Jackson, who is on injured reserve. Jernigan is their space-eating DT up front who allows Fletcher Cox to try and wreak havoc on the other side of the line.
We saw how Antwaun Woods’ absence hurt the Cowboys’ run defense against Green Bay. A similar impact could come from Jernigan being out for Philly.
Making matters worse for the Eagles’ run defense is missing talent at linebacker. The team released Zach Brown earlier this week, who had started all six games for them this year. Now they will also be without their top LB in Nigel Bradham who’s dealing with an ankle injury.
The rest of the Eagles’ linebackers are inexperienced and have been more special teams players than anything. Undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards is going to try to fill Bradham’s shoes in his first NFL start, while Kamu Grugier-Hill will also be getting his first start this season.
Even if Philadelphia can do a decent job up front, will their linebackers be able to read and react enough to slow down Ezekiel Elliott?
Zeke’s best rushing day so far in 2019 was the 125 yards he put on the Miami Dolphins with just 19 carries. Backup Tony Pollard also had over a hundred yards that day.
While the Eagles certainly should offer more resistance than the Miami Dolphin Tanks, they clearly have some issues going into tomorrow’s game. Hopefully, Kellen Moore has figured out ways to exploit those weaknesses and give Ezekiel Elliott the kind of performance we’re all longing to see again.