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Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott

We’ve talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten’s return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys’ offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.

From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in “run vs. pass” play calls. That’s only logical; you don’t spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.

Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas’ decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.

Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.

Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They’ve spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La’el Collins.

Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.

This isn’t about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn’t going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.

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Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

We’re all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We’re salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.

Heck, maybe we’ll see fullback Jamize Olawale’s receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.

And yes, Dak Prescott’s growth is another major factor in Dallas’ 2019 success. It’s especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.

But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore’s scheme, Zeke should still get the lion’s share of the touches.

That’s why this week’s news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won’t lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.

While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn’t put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.

In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It’s the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn’t set everyone else up for success.

Don’t ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott’s offense.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

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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