Connect with us

Player News

Ezekiel Elliott: Ready For A Rigorous Workload

We live in an age of instant information. This instant information brings instant reaction, and sometimes this reaction can be over the top. Okay, most of the time the reaction is over the top; especially when it comes to our Dallas Cowboys. This is why whenever the Cowboys do anything, I try to temper my expectations and take a deep breath before reacting. But when the Dallas Cowboys used their fourth overall selection to take running back Ezekiel Elliott, all of this normal breathing went out the window.

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott Dominates Preliminary Madden Rookie Ratings

We live in an age of instant information. This instant information brings instant reaction, and sometimes this reaction can be over the top. Okay, most of the time the reaction is over the top; especially when it comes to our Dallas Cowboys.

This is why whenever the Cowboys do anything, I try to temper my expectations and take a deep breath before reacting.

But when the Dallas Cowboys used their fourth overall selection to take running back Ezekiel Elliott, all of this normal breathing went out the window.

Seemingly insane projections and predictions for what Ezekiel Elliott might do in his rookie season began to be given by experts and fans alike. We heard it all, from Rookie of the Year to breaking the rookie rushing record to Zeke even having to take somewhere around 300 carries.

The thing is, these projections aren't ridiculous at all, and for the Dallas Cowboys to be successful in 2016, many of them must be fulfilled.

Before you start thinking I'm putting too much on a rookie, hear me out.

David Helman of DallasCowboys.com recently projected Ezekiel Elliott's carries in 2016 to fall between the 280-300 range.

If it seems like a lot, that's because it is a lot

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: Training Camp Position Battles 2

May 25, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and running back Alfred Morris (46) during organized team activities at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, only two running backs in the entire NFL had more than 280 carries, and only five running backs had more than 260 carries; but we are going to ask a rookie to rush upwards of 300 times?

While it is a bit of a daunting number, it will only take Elliott about 15-20 rushes per game to get to that 280 mark. If the Cowboys can get 18 from Ezekiel Elliott, and another 20 from the combination of Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, they will be in business.

There are those who are worried that Ezekiel Elliott could be put on pace for a DeMarco Murray-like collapse early in his career if asked to do too much too early. Many are now beginning to believe the Cowboys ran Murray into the ground during 2014, after seeing his lackluster performance in Philadelphia a season ago. While there may be some truth to this, Murray rushed a total of 392 times that season. That's about 100 more carries than I expect from Elliott.

100 is a big difference, in case you weren't sure.

While Zeke's workload will be great, it should be nowhere near what Murray's was in 2014, if for no other reason than there are other viable options at running back. We saw McFadden be productive behind this offensive line last season, and Alfred Morris is no slouch himself.

280 carries is in line with comparable rookie backs

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Loaded Backfield Left Off Of NFLN's Top 5

07 May 2016: Ezekiel Elliott (21)
of the Dallas Cowboys during rookie minicamp at the Cowboys headquarters in Irving, Texas. Photo by Sam Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Three of the most prominent top-10 running backs of the past decade - Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, and Trent Richardson - all saw rushing attempt totals somewhere around this projected "Zeke Range."

Gurley, who missed significant time after coming off an ACL tear, rushed 229 times his rookie season. Had he played the entire year, I am willing to bet he would've been up around that 280 range.

Trent Richardson had 267 carries his rookie year, and Adrian Peterson had 238. While both players were under 280, Ezekiel Elliott's current situation is a bit different considering the offensive line he will be playing behind, and the hopeful chances to milk clocks and ice games late that he will have.

Oh, and Ezekiel Elliott has done it before

Cowboys Headlines - It's Not Over, Cowboys Just Took the Most Difficult Route to '16 Success 1

Ezekiel Elliott mixed with the Cowboys offensive line would give Dallas an extremely difficult rushing attack to figure out

Granted, it was at the college level, but Ezekiel Elliott still tallied 289 carries for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns last season at Ohio State, in just 13 games. While he will face a much more brutal pounding from NFL defenses, Zeke has proven that he has the durability and toughness to withstand the high demands and rigorous workload.

Let's revisit that Murray comparison...

DeMarco Murray suffered a laundry list of injuries throughout his career in Dallas. He spent nearly half of the 2011 season on the injured reserve, and even in 2014 we saw Murray injure his hand. At Oklahoma, he dislocated his knee cap on a freakish play in 2007, and suffered a few hamstring injuries going into the 2009 season.

Ezekiel Elliott, on the other hand, has been virtually injury-free his entire college career. I don't want to jinx anything, but I do want to highlight that Elliott has shown a level of durability which Murray may not have during his college years. This durability will help him to carry that high workload.

So, yes, Ezekiel Elliott is going to see a ton of carries his rookie season; partly out of necessity, and partly because of his own special abilities. But don't worry, he will be just fine.



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.

Advertisement
2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bryson Treece

    Bryson Treece

    June 30, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    I don't envy Ezekiel Elliott right now. Can you imagine the pressure he's under? Not only the RB of the Dallas Cowboys, but obviously he's being held to the standard set in 2014 by DeMarco Murray and he's a rookie on top of that. I certain hope that he can carry the load the way everyone seems so sure he can, but I have my doubts. I expect there will be stumbles and learning opportunities that fans find quite painful to watch. That said, I also expect that he will be a true gem on the field.

  2. Jen Barber

    July 1, 2016 at 1:56 am

    I'm sure Zeke will have "newbie" flaws here & there. That being said, I also think he'll be better than Murray long term. He is a much more balanced runner than Murray, he doesn't fumble & isn't IMO a prima donna. He is a team player. I do agree with you on the fact that I wouldn't want to be him right now. However, I think he is the right guy for the job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Player News

Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!



Continue Reading

Player News

DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.

Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.

One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.

ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t

DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.

Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.

Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.



Continue Reading

Player News

When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

Published

on

All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.

During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending