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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

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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 am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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2 Comments
  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

    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.

  • Jen Barber

    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.

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line

The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.

Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.

Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp

What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.

The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.

Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.

To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.

Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.

If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.

Tell us what you think about "Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles

Jess Haynie

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Leighton Vander Esch
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX

This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.

The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.

Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.

A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.

If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.



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Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott

John Williams

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Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.

Mark Lane on Twitter

Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.

Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.

As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are  many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.

Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.

Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.

It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.

Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.



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