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Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Deserve MVP Consideration?

Kevin Brady

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Ezekiel Elliott's Return To Cowboys Mired In Misplaced Controversy
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File

I'm not sure if you've heard, but the Dallas Cowboys are in first place of the NFC East. Yes, it only takes being 6-5 to be in first place of this not-good division, but hey it's still a playoff spot.

Over the last three weeks the Cowboys offense has looked exponentially better than they did the first 8 games of the season. And, the catalyst of it all despite what some may argue, has been running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Heading into Sunday's slate of games, Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL in rushing with 1,074 yards and has also scored 6 rushing touchdowns. He passed up former rushing leader, and MVP candidate Todd Gurley this Thursday with a monster 100+ yard game against the Washington Redskins. Elliott is averaging just under 5 yards per carry as well, and has 47 catches for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air.

While all of these stats are obviously impressive, it's Elliott's impact on the Cowboys as a whole which makes us wonder if he can garner some MVP consideration. Zeke is clearly the Cowboys best offensive skill player, and as cliche as it sounds, as he goes so do the Dallas Cowboys.

The only other running back who's even talked about as a potential MVP candidate is the aforementioned Todd Gurley. Gurley, who has rushed for 1,043 yards on 5 yards per carry, is clearly an important part of the Rams offense as well, but is deployed a bit differently than Elliott. Gurley has 4 less receptions than Elliott, but has 441 receiving yards to Zeke's 363! He's also caught 4 touchdowns, and ran for a league leading 13 scores.Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley

As much as I want Ezekiel Elliott to be given that MVP level respect, Scott Linehan and company may be holding him back from those conversations. The Cowboys haven't scored nearly the number of touchdowns the Rams have, and have been far less explosive as an offense. As a result, Gurley's touchdown numbers kind of dwarf Elliott's through 11 games.

Regardless, Ezekiel Elliott is at worst the second best running back in football right now, and is clearly the most important factor to the Cowboys offense. Yes, even more important than their quarterback, even if my analytics-driven wisdom would want to scream "running backs don't matter!"

The fact of the matter is that both Elliott and Gurley are the most important players on their respective offenses, but Gurley's offense being much greater than Elliott's will keep voters from leaning towards our guy.

If Ezekiel Elliott rushes for over 100 yards and a couple of touchdowns in a win over the Saints this week, however, some of those voters may begin to come around.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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Star Blog

If Sean Lee’s the Cowboys Starting SAM LB, Who’s his Backup?

Brian Martin

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Do the Dallas Cowboys Have a Sean Lee Backup Plan?

If you believe the talk around the water cooler, Sean Lee is going to be the Dallas Cowboys starting strong side (SAM) linebacker in 2019.

On paper this looks like a brilliant move. It puts the Cowboys best three linebackers (Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee) on the field the same time when they are in their base defense. It should also help "General Lee" healthwise since the SAM LB over the last three years (Damien Wilson) never played more than 30% of the defensive snaps.

But, we all know No. 50 has struggled to remain healthy for an entire season pretty much his whole career. What happens if he once again succumbs to the injury bug? Who do the Dallas Cowboys plan on making his backup?

I think second-year LB Chris Covington, not to be confused with DT Christian Covington, could get the first crack at becoming Lee's backup. At 6'2", 245 pounds, he has the size to play SAM, but he's unproven and will have to prove himself in training camp and preseason to become a serious consideration.

There may be a dark course candidate to become Sean Lee's primary backup.

Luke Gifford

Dallas Cowboys LB Luke Gifford

Luke Gifford, an undrafted LB out of Nebraska, was supposedly pretty impressive in previous summer workouts. He's been spoken pretty highly of already, but like Covington needs to prove himself. Could he be another undrafted hidden gem?

Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer Bryan Broaddus seems to like what he's seen so far from Gifford.

"If there is a young linebacker to keep an eye on I have a sneaky feeling about Gifford. This kid has a nose for the ball. He plays well on the move and he's a finisher when he gets into position to make plays. Gifford can play both inside and out which gives him that flexibility coaches covet. Where Gifford is going to have to make his mark is in these padded practices and then in preseason games. I have already seen flashes of traits and instincts and range which makes me believe he could pull this off."

You can't help but like the way Broaddus talks about Luke Gifford. He sounds like the kind of depth player the Cowboys like due to his versatility and skill set, but he's going to have to continue to prove himself when the pads come on if he wants to stick around. That's the life of an undrafted free agent though.

It may seem a little odd to talk abbout backup players this early, but because of Sean Lee's inability to remain healthy it could be an important position battle to keep an eye on once training camp gets underway. I know I'm going to be keeping a close eye on Chris Covington (#59) and Luke Gifford (#57). What about you?

Who do you think will become Sean Lee's primary backup at SAM LB?



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Trysten Hill Could Make the Interior Defensive Line Complete

Matthew Lenix

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Trysten Hill Could Make the Interior Defensive Line Dominant

Confusion. Probably the first word that came to minds of Dallas Cowboys fans worldwide when the 58th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft was announced, considering the glaring need at safety. Nonetheless, the team decided to buffer its defensive line by selecting Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill out of Central Florida.

Reports say there was a decision to be made between Hill and Virginia Safety Juan Thornhill at 58, with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and Defensive Backs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard ultimately convincing everyone Hill was the guy. Looking back on the Cowboys playoff loss to the Rams, it isn't hard to understand why this particular decision was made. They were gashed for 273 rushing yards that night, after holding the league's top rushing attack under 80 yards between four ball carriers in their win against Seattle.

Trysten is excellent against the run, racking up 20 career tackles for loss, including an unreal 10.5 in 2018. Even though the NFL is more of a passing league now, stopping the run is a formula that will always work, you want to make teams one-dimensional.

Character concerns were one of the major sticking points against the selection of Hill. He went from a starter in 2017 to a rotation guy in 2018. Even though he played a lot of football, and played well, why was his role reduced? Head Coach Jason Garrett quickly dispelled any questions about Hill's character, after talking with former UCF Head Coach Scott Frost.

"The staff who was there before, Scott Frost and his group, we spent a lot of time with them, talked to them, and they endorsed him highly, both as a player and as a person. He did a good job in that environment. And even though he wasn't a starter this past year, he did play a lot of football for them and played a lot of football for them in critical times," Garret said.

Not only was he one of the 30 guys that came into the team's facility for pre-draft visits, but he also had a sit-down with the Cowboys at the combine in Indianapolis. To top it all off, he had a workout lead by his future Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli at UCF's pro day, where he received high praise.

With that praise came a "Work Ethic" contract signed by Hill between himself and Marinelli. Explaining what is expected of him day in and day out in terms of hard work, preparation and dedication. A very unique approach by Marinelli, and one that Hill is more than willing to honor.

"I can't put into words how important our relationship is with each other. He wants the best out of me and I want to give him everything I've got. Him really taking hold of me this whole process, and me being able to call him and chat with him and hear his voice was huge in this whole ordeal," Hill said.

If that doesn't give you goosebumps I don't know what will.

Antwaun Woods is the starter at the 1-technique defensive tackle position. He was a big reason the Cowboys finished fifth against the run last season. Hill will have to battle it out in camp with Maliek Collins to see who will put his name at the top of the depth chart as the team's starter at the 3-technique. Hill could edge out Collins, but being that he's in a contract year he definitely won't make it easy on the rookie. Throw in Tyrone Crawford, Daniel Ross, and Christian Covington this group can be productive where quarterbacks hate getting pressure from the most, straight up the middle.

He's young, raw and full of potential. A close bond has already been formed with Marinelli, which can only boost the confidence of a 21-year-old kid ready to take the NFL by storm. The lights shine the brightest in Big D, it's all there for him, now it's up to him to become "King of the Hill" so to speak.



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The Ringer Names Byron Jones, La’el Collins As Potential Trade Bait

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones, #31

The Ringer's Robert Mays published a piece this week discussing the most realistic blockbuster type trades which could go down in the NFL this summer.

And, as tends to be the case, there were Dallas Cowboys all over his list.

Mays named both cornerback Byron Jones and right tackle La'el Collins as players which could potentially be on the move prior to the season starting.

The reasoning? (You've probably heard) the Cowboys have a lot of players to pay these next two offseasons, both Collins and Jones being on the list, and they have a good amount of talent at their position groups already.

"Dallas is slated to have about $75 million in cap space in 2020, according to Over The Cap, but that number is a bit misleading. A new contract for Dak Prescott is imminent, and even if the Cowboys manage to keep his cap figure relatively low in the deal’s first year, he will probably still cost at least $15 million against the cap next season. Combine that with the fact that Jones, Collins, and linebacker Jaylon Smith all have deals that expire this year, and Dallas’s robust cap space starts to shrink quickly."

The reasoning makes logical sense, though I don't see the trades actually happening. The Cowboys are going for it this year, looking to win their sixth Super Bowl and first in over two decades. Whether or not it'll happen is, of course, up in the air, but their roster is good enough to make you believe they have a real shot at contending. Trading away one, or two, of their returning starters would likely take them farther from their ultimate goal in 2019.

Robert Mays also put the Cowboys in discussions to trade with the Raiders again, this time for safety Karl Joseph.

"Dallas signed George Iloka this spring to bolster its safety depth, but the position remains the biggest weakness on an otherwise strong roster. Dallas has more than $19 million in cap space, so it would have no issue taking on Joseph’s relatively modest deal. Players selected by a departed GM are often excellent trade targets, and it seems like the Cowboys could land Joseph for the right price."

Now this is a deal I could get behind.

Dallas still likely has a hole at safety, though there is reason to be hopeful about the prospects for George Iloka in 2019. If by the middle of the season Dallas is still looking for a suitable starter and upgrade over Jeff Heath, maybe they'll toss a day two or three pick at the Raiders and see if they can snag Karl Joseph.

Trading with the Raiders in 2018 worked out pretty well, after all.



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