As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday in Hawaii, they continue to so without Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is still searching for a contract extension from the Dallas Cowboys that could potentially make him the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL. The Cowboys are trying to get Elliott's contract closer to what Le'veon Bell received from the New York Jets at $13.125 million per year.
The difference is probably about $2 million a year between the two sides. That difference is leading to this holdout.
Despite being away from the team, Elliott is reportedly staying in excellent shape. Per a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL's leading rusher from the 2016 and 2018 seasons has been working out while in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and should be ready to hit the ground running once the contract situation is figured out.
While he is away from the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott's weight is in the low 220s, the lowest it has been since his rookie year, per source. If and when the two sides can work out a deal, Elliott will be all ready to go.
Schefter also states that Elliott is down to the low 220's, which is approximately 10 pounds lighter than what he has been playing at the last couple of years.
One criticism of Ezekiel Elliott's 2018 season is that he wasn't very efficient with his league-leading carries. Per NFL's Next Gen Stats, Elliott ranked 36th in efficiency. To Elliott's defense, he saw eight or more men in the box on 24.67% of his carries last season (Per Next Gen Stats).
He didn't have as many long runs as he had in previous seasons either. Though he still led the NFL in carries of greater than 10 yards (per Pro Football Focus), he was second in the NFL with only 11 carries of 20 or more yards and had only one carry for more than 40 yards (per NFL.com). In 2016, Elliott had 14 carries for more than 20 yards and 4 carries for more than 40 yards during his rookie season.
Elliott slimming down a bit should help him to be quicker, faster, and more elusive. For most of his career, he's relied mostly on being more physical than would-be tacklers and has been at the top of the NFL in yards after contact. Slimming down should help Elliott to break tackles without having to rely on his physicality and toughness.
The other criticism Elliott faced was the effectiveness of his targets and his 77 receptions. While Ezekiel Elliott finished fifth in the NFL in receptions by a running back, he was eighth in yards and 14th in yards per reception among running backs with at least 61 targets on the season. If you include running backs with at least 24 targets on the season, Elliott drops all the way down to 24th in yards per reception in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
Much of that was due to his average depth of target, which had him more often than not as a check-down option. Elliott's receiving ability is much better than that as we saw in the Detroit Lions game when Dak Prescott found Elliott deep down the sideline for a catch that set up the winning score.
With Kellen Moore on board, it looks like the Dallas Cowboys will deploy the running back as a receiver in the passing game more. In training camp, we've seen Tony Pollard and Jamize Olawale flash with receptions down the field in practice. Being able to motion Elliott out wide and throw to him down the field will be a huge boost to the Dallas Cowboys offense.
If Elliott is slimmed down to closer to 220, then his ability as a receiver will be the primary beneficiary. As opposed to being only a check down option for the Cowboys passing game, they'll be able to deploy him on routes that have him catching the ball deeper down the field.
The Dallas Cowboys are getting ready to invest in Ezekiel Elliott with a big contract and it's important that he and the team take care of that investment as he advances in age. While he's capable of taking on 380 touches, it's in the team's interest to keep his touch total closer to 350 touches a season if they plan on having him around for the next five years or so, as it appears to be their intention.
Ezekiel Elliott has always been a tremendous worker and the reports coming out of Cabo should be encouraging to Cowboys fans. He's getting ready for the 2019 season. Though the contract is what's keeping him away at this point, I don't imagine he or the team letting this spill over into the regular season. Ezekiel Elliott is an important person to this team; on the field and in the locker room. Having him in the backfield with Dak Prescott week one is important for the chemistry and camaraderie of the Dallas Cowboys.
The front office wants him to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys for a long time and Ezekiel Elliott wants to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys for a long time. When that's the case, it's only a matter of time before a contract will be finalized.
And when the contract extension finally gets done, the NFL's best running back will be back and ready to help the Dallas Cowboys contend for a Super Bowl.
Report: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Could Only Miss One Game
The Dallas Cowboys might not be without their rising star at free safety as long as they originally thought. According to DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus, Xavier Woods could only miss this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
They gave him a physical and didn't sign so that tells me a little something. Xavier Woods is not going to be out 4-6 weeks. Might miss one game... https://t.co/EFcpjlZnPH
Woods suffered a high ankle sprain this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins that was supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks. If he is only out one game that would be amazing news for the Cowboys with the toughest part of their schedule coming up. Safety Darian Thompson is set to start this Sunday opposite Jeff Heath in place of Woods, with rookie Donovan Wilson and Kavon Frazier also their for insurance. Will Xavier Woods be back against the New Orleans Saints next week? Something to keep an eye on. More details to come.
Devin Smith Has Opportunity to Shine in Michael Gallup’s Absence
In the wake of today's news that Michael Gallup will miss the next 2-4 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery to trim the meniscus in his left knee. Gallup was having another solid game for the Dallas Cowboys when he suffered the injury. It's an unfortunate setback for Gallup was emerging as a go-to player for Dak Prescott in the passing offense.
With Gallup's absence comes an opportunity for other wide receivers on the depth chart. The player most likely to benefit the most is former second-round pick and first-year Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Devin Smith.
Smith exploded on offense for the Cowboys in week two against the Washington Redskins. He had three receptions on three targets for 74 yards and a 51-yard touchdown reception that was the first score of the game for the Dallas Cowboys. After Gallup went down with the injury, Smith was the immediate beneficiary of snaps, catching his other two passes on the drive after Gallup's injury, including one that picked up the first down.
Devin Smith will take on a larger role with Michael Gallup out. This catch yesterday by Smith was his first TD since 2015. He has battled back from two significant knee injuries.
Devin Smith played 26% of the offensive snaps on Sunday and was dynamic and effective in the passing game. Afte the Gallup injury, any time the offense was in 11 personnel (3 wide receivers) Devin Smith was the next man up.
They used Smith on play-action twice and on an RPO signifying their belief in his ability to make plays in the passing game. The former second-round pick from Ohio State has excellent speed and showed out throughout the preseason and training camp to earn his spot on the 53-man roster out of training camp.
In fact, the team felt so good about Smith coming into the season that they were willing to subject both Cedrick Wilson and Jon'vea Johnson to waivers before placing them on the practice squad.
If Michael Gallup does have to sit out for four weeks, then Smith has an excellent opportunity to cement himself within the Dallas Cowboys receiving hierarchy and potentially audition for his next job in 2020, either with the Dallas Cowboys or someone else around the NFL. Smith had likely earned the opportunity to play ahead of Tavon Austin in the offense -- whenever Austin is back -- and how the next two to four weeks go could have a huge impact on the Dallas Cowboys and his own future.
With the emergence of Michael Gallup toward the end of 2018 and to start the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys offense has been much healthier and balanced. It hasn't had to rely on one player to carry the offense and the passing game in particular.
When the Dallas Cowboys have several receiving threats it makes life easier for everyone on offense and much more challenging for opposing defenses. With Devin Smith coming into the lineup, teams are going to have to respect his downfield speed, which could open things up in the short to intermediate areas for the rest of the offense. After his 51 yard touchdown on Sunday, opposing defenses will have to pay attention to Smith.
In week three against at tanking Miami Dolphins squad, Smith may have another big game. In week one, the Miami Dolphins allowed Baltimore Ravens rookie Wide Receiver Marquise Brown to go off for four catches, 147 yards, and two touchdowns. The two touchdowns were on receptions of 47 and 83 yards.
The Dallas Cowboys need Devin Smith to be an effective player in order to keep the balance they've had in their target distribution. Teams will shade coverage toward Amari Cooper with Gallup out and Devin Smith will have to take advantage. Over the last few months, Smith has shown flashes of the ability that once made him a second-round pick. Now he's got a huge opportunity ahead of him and the Dallas Cowboys need him to take advantage of it to have the same level of success they've experienced in the first two weeks of the season.
REPORT: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Out 4-6 Weeks With Ankle Injury
Another tough injury coming out of last week's game against Washington; Cowboys starting Safety Xavier Woods is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain injury.
This comes just a day after Dallas lost WR Michael Gallup for 2-4 weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Cowboys FS Xavier Woods is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain, source said. A blow to the secondary with #Saints, #Packers among upcoming opponents.
The next man up at safety appears to be Darian Thompson, who has been with the Cowboys since midway through the 2018 season. He was re-signed as a free agent last March and is one of the key reasons that Dallas chose not to keep veteran George Iloka at final cuts.
Cowboys S Darian Thompson will make his first start Sunday since joining team in 2018, source said. S Xavier Woods is sidelined with high ankle sprain.
Earlier this morning, it was reported that Dallas is working out free agent safety Josh Jones. He was a 2nd-Round pick of the Packers in 2017 who was released last month after falling down the depth chart and demanding a trade.
Dallas still has Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson on the roster for safety depth. While many fans would love to see Wilson get the start this week, Darian Thompson's game and athleticism are more suited to play the free safety role.
Thompson also has experience, having started 17 games from 2016-2017 with the New York Giants. He was their 3rd-Round pick in 2016.
Thankfully, this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins gives the Cowboys a soft opponent with which to make these adjustments. But missing Xavier Woods is going to hurt; he is a rising star on defense and easily their top player at safety.
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