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Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley Out To Prove Running Backs Do “Matter”

Kevin Brady

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Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley Out To Prove Running Backs Do "Matter"
Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

Running backs don't matter.

If you are on the internet reading football takes, you've probably heard this one floated out there plenty of times. The idea is that running the football is a less-efficient way of playing offense, and that spending early draft capital on a seemingly replaceable position is a poor way of building a roster.

In some cases, this bears out. There is no statistically significant correlation between rushing success and play action success, nor is there any connection between teams who rush for the most yards in a season and number of wins in that same season. Passing has become more important than running for a plethora of reasons, and many of the numbers back this assumption up.

But then there are truly special running backs. Guys like the two starters in this week's divisional match up between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. Guys who are out to prove that running backs do matter to an offense, and are/will be looking to be paid like it.

Guys like Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley.Ezekiel Elliott Already Has His Second Rushing Title Locked Down

Two of the league's leading rushers in 2018, and the All Pro running backs for this season, Elliott and Gurley look to be a different breed of back. Old school runners with a new school pass catching twist, both Elliott and Gurley can provide value for their respective offenses in a variety of ways.

Both Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley caught upwards of 75 passes this season, with Gurley even surpassing the 80 catch mark. Both went well over 1,000 rushing yards this season as well, with both players even doing it in less than 16 games.

There's no question these are two of the best running backs in all football, and are expected to be catalysts of their respective offenses for a long time.

Still, more advanced numbers show even these two great backs may be "replaceable."

Not only did CJ Anderson replicate much of Gurley's production in his absence over the final two regular season games, but expected points added per touch suggests that Ezekiel Elliott is actually one of the Cowboys' least efficient targets on their offense. Of course, this has less to do with Elliott's ability and more to do with the type of targets and carries he gets throughout the game, but it is an interesting point nonetheless.

When you also consider how effective the Pittsburgh Steelers were at getting production out of backup running backs during Le'veon Bell's holdout, and how quickly DeMarco Murray fell off after leaving the Cowboys' offense and aging a bit, it's fair to wonder what the market price for a RB1 should be.

If any running backs are going to change the perception around the league that the position is replaceable, or that they shouldn't be paid like the top skill players at other positions on the offense, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley are the ones to do it.

Saturday night provides yet another gigantic, national stage for both these young stars to prove they're worth earn every penny they will be paid during their careers. Even if some continue to question the overall value of the position.

After all when you watch either of these offenses, especially that of the Dallas Cowboys, it begins to feel like running backs matter a lot.



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

DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

Kevin Brady

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DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.

The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.

After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.

So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.

What exactly is that role, though?

I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.

Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.

Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.

If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.

This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.



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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

Kevin Brady

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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.

Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.

Randall Cobb on Twitter

Randall Cobb on Twitter

https://t.co/9H9xfApFqe

In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.

This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

https://twitter.com/tae15adams/status/1108158105957920770

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb

Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.



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Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Malik McDowell, Michigan State

The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.

McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.

None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.

2017 NFL Draft: Scouting Michigan State DL Malik McDowell - Slant Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.

Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?

"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.

On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."

nfldraft malik mcdowell 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.

nfldraft malik mcdowell 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.

Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.



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