For the first few games of the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys running game hasn’t looked like the world-beaters they were in 2016. They’ve had a hard time creating any consistency, even though they’ve had their moments of effectiveness.
If we take a look back at the early part of that 2016 season, it’s easy to see that they didn’t get off to a hot start there either.
As a team the Dallas Cowboys rushed for 100 and 101 yards to start the season against the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, respectively.
Remember all of the “Ezekiel Elliott is a bust,” “we should play Alfred Morris,” and “the offensive line is overrated” talk?
Here at InsideTheStar.com two of our very own writers have joined the chorus of many expressing concern over our run game in this short season.
“Through three weeks, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the offensive line has been the worst position group on the team. Trust me, I can’t believe I’m saying that either.”
Staff Writer, Kevin Brady’s (@KevinBrady88) criticism is a bit more focused on this week’s film review; he’s stated that Chaz Green has sabotaged the running game. To me that’s a bit strong, but when Kevin talks OL, you can bet I’m paying attention.
If you follow Twitter during the game, you can see Cowboys Nation self-destruct with each Ezekiel Elliott carry that goes nowhere. Here are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t be worried about the Dallas Cowboys running game after only three weeks.
It Takes Time to Develop Chemistry
The biggest basis for Connor’s concerns is my number one reason why we shouldn’t worry at this point in the season. It takes time playing together to develop the chemistry that is so vital to an elite offensive line.
After an offseason where the team was trying to figure out who would be the starting right tackle and left guard, the current starting five for the Dallas Cowboys didn’t play together all that much.
Remember Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green were battling it out for the entirety of training camp with several other names mixed in.
While competition is a good thing, aspects of offensive line play like chemistry and cohesiveness go underrated. Understanding what the guys on either side of you are going to do and being able to trust the player next to you to do their job are both things that take time.
Being only three games into real football with a new left guard and a new right tackle, it may take a some time to get everyone on the same page for a full 60 minutes.
Now with Chaz Green being hampered by injury, it’s possible that it could take longer if he’s forced to sit out.
Really Good Defenses
In 2017, the Dallas Cowboys have faced three tough defenses to start the season. The New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, and the Arizona Cardinals are pretty good on the defensive side of the football.
In 2016, we saw what the New York Giants were able to do to this Dallas Cowboys team and they started off strong yet again in week one. Dallas was able to run for 129 yards, Dak Prescott accounting for 29 of those on three carries.
Elliott ran for 104 on 24 carries. An average of 4.33 yards per carry. A pretty good day against a pretty good defense if you ask me. They tried to take the running game away, but the team was able to wear them down and win on the ground when it mattered most.
We all remember what Denver did to Dallas. That is one of the three best defenses in the NFL, if not the best. Sometimes good defenses like that are gonna take you out of your game plan. Denver certainly did that by getting ahead early and making Dallas a one-dimensional passing team. Denver is first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed this season.
Check out Kevin’s film breakdown of what went wrong vs the Denver Broncos.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, a team that came into the game only allowing 2.8 yards per carry, the Dallas Cowboys got back on track.
Despite Chaz Green’s struggles, the team was able to make enough happen on the ground to allow Prescott to be effective in the play action game.
It wasn’t pretty in the first half, but Dallas didn’t get the ball much. In the second half though, Dallas was able to grind away with the running game as Elliott ran for 49 of his 80 yards. His yards per carry wasn’t great but at 3.63 yards per carry, it was nearly a yard better per carry than what Arizona was giving up through two games.
After Elliott’s sub par weeks one and two in 2016, he went on to run for 1,497 yards over the last 13 games (Elliott didn’t play in the last game of the 2016 season).
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The Dallas Cowboys have faced some really strong defenses to start the year. Now they get the Los Angeles Rams, who have given up 139 yards per game on the ground. I imagine that the game plan will feature Ezekiel Elliott early and often.
After Los Angeles, the Cowboys get the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, two teams that aren’t doing a lot against the run themselves.
The point of all this is that we need to relax about the running game for now. It hasn’t been pretty, but aside from the Denver game, it’s been effective. By Monday, we will all realize that panicking over the running game was a bit premature.