After weeks of the post-draft lull and continued offseason, football is now on the horizon.
Yes, real football. It’s close, oh so close.
The Dallas Cowboys opened up their Mandatory Mini-Camp at Valley Ranch yesterday, and there was no shortage of news, nor excitement.
The two biggest stories of the day were a bit on the somber side, as defensive end Benson Mayowa will be undergoing a minor knee surgery and running back Darren McFadden suffered a broken elbow.
While the Mayowa news struck fans hard due to the Cowboys current weak spot at defensive end even when Mayowa is healthy, we were able to shake of the McFadden news to a certain extent because of one man; Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott was going to be the starter anyway come September, and most expect Alfred Morris to take over the number two job from McFadden as well. What his injury really does is potentially open up the door for sixth round running back Darius Jackson to potentially earn a roster spot.
Zeke has already taken over the reigns as the starting running back, getting most of the first team reps yesterday now that McFadden is out of the picture.
But yesterday, Ezekiel Elliott was doing more than just taking his running back reps, he was even getting chances to return kickoffs.
Ezekiel Elliott and Morris Claiborne both worked on returning kickoffs
Let me start by saying, I highly doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is the week one kick returner. There is simply too much at stake. The Cowboys have way too much invested in him to be a franchise running back for him to be put back there and potentially suffer an injury.
But, it is a lot of fun to think about.
Elliott did not return kicks at Ohio State often, returning only one kick for 16 yards in 2014, and two punts for 13 yards in 2015.
But the former Big 10 leader in all purpose yards could be a dangerous weapon if given the opportunity.
Of course, as almost every college skill player does, Elliott saw action on Special Teams early on in his collegiate career. But, he was used on kickoff team as a fearsome tackler, not as a returner, and recorded this bone crushing hit in 2013 against Purdue.
Drew Basil kicks off in the 3rd quarter with the Buckeyes leading over Purdue 49 to 0 Ezekiel Elliot makes the hit for the tackle for the Ohio State.
The Cowboys have allowed a high profile first rounder to serve as a returner before. Dez Bryant did so at times during his first three seasons, recording two punts for touchdowns his rookie season in 2010.
I would argue that Dez is still the Cowboys most dangerous return man, but it is even more unlikely that he will be used there than it is that Elliott will.
The Cowboys should, and I believe will, instead look at their other rookie running back to get some work as a kick returner. Darius Jackson has “breakaway speed” and can score anytime he touches the ball. I apologize for the clichés, but as I talked about in his film review, it is very true.
Most of the questions I have about Jackson are about his ability to be an every down runner, but as a return specialist or specialized offensive weapon, these questions wouldn’t matter much.
So no, it is not likely that Ezekiel Elliott will get a chance to be a returner this season, or any season for the Cowboys.
But just imagine having Zeke and Dez back there waiting for the opening kickoff, ready to put a spike through the opponent’s heart before the offense even gets on the field.
We will just have to settle for them dominating together solely on the offensive side of the ball, I guess.