The NFL has suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games, the long-awaited ruling on an investigation into domestic violence allegations that has lasted for over a year.
The domestic violence accusations came from a former girlfriend of Elliott's who has twice claimed that Zeke physically abused her. The credibility of the accuser has been in question, though, from evidence that she was lying and asking friends to do the same. Elliott has explained that the woman is bitter over their relationship and trying to hurt him in the public eye.
Even if the domestic issue was entirely false, Zeke's had some other problems and hits to his reputation. He was seen at a marijuana dispensary in Seattle during the 2016 preseason, which isn't illegal in the state of Washington but still a bad look given the league's policy on cannabis.
Last March, Zeke was caught on camera briefly lifting a female friend's shirt up during a St. Patrick's Day parade. It quickly became clear that this was in keeping with their relationship, but still poor judgment in Elliott's part given the ongoing domestic violence investigation.
Elliott also received a speeding ticket for going 100 mph on a 70 mph highway in April. In July, he was at a nightclub where a fight occurred and police were called in. It was initially rumored that he'd been involved in the altercation, but that was never confirmed or charged officially.
The wait for the NFL's initial ruling is over, but the fight may have only just begun for Zeke and the league. He does have the right to appeal the suspension, the process for which was outlined by sports attorney Daniel Wallach on Twitter:
Elliott must file his appeal within 3 business days, and #NFL would then have 10 days to conduct a hearing. https://t.co/SU7ecnLnlC
The idea has been out there that Elliott and the Cowboys might use the appeal process strategically. Zeke's suspension is not enforced while under appeal, meaning he can keep playing until it's over. Even if they don't believe the suspension would be reduced, keeping Elliott available for the season opener against the New York Giants makes a lot of sense.
Based on the timeline provided by Wallach, the NFL's internal appeal process would be done by August 29th or 30th (depending on if today counts as one of the three days to file appeal). The Giants will be here on September 10th. Obviously, that doesn't work.
However, Elliott could then seek an injunction against the NFL and take his fight to the courts. The effect would be the same; Zeke could keep playing while the process plays out through the legal system. As we saw with Tom Brady, that could potentially delay things for an entire year.
There is always the potential, though, that Zeke doesn't want to go through all of this and will just accept the suspension. If so, Dallas will likely be looking to Darren McFadden as they did in 2015. Even with Tony Romo out of the year and no real passing threat from Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, or Kellen Moore, McFadden still had over 1,000 yards on the ground and 300 receiving. With Dak Prescott under center, McFadden could conceivably do even more.
That said, McFadden was 28 then and turns 30 in a few weeks. That's a long time in RB years. Thankfully, the Cowboys still have Alfred Morris and the emerging Rod Smith to help lighten the load. We may see more of a rotation during Zeke's absence than we're used to from recent seasons.
What the Cowboys do next depends on Ezekiel Elliott. Will he appeal? How far will he take that fight? I hate to say it after all this time, but we're still in wait-and-see mode.
Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense
For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.
Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.
He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.
During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.
Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.
With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.
Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.
In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.
There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.
While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.
Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.
Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.
In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.
Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.
Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.
At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.
The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.
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