The Dallas Cowboys are already in playoff mode with just four games to go. Their inconsistent play has them fighting for their postseason lives at 6-6, with the 5-7 Philadelphia Eagles still hot on their trail for NFC East supremacy.
If the Cowboys want to return to playoffs they must first get All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott going on the ground. He may not lead the league in rushing as we’ve become accustomed to but his 990 yards are good for sixth amongst all running so far this season. When he is moving the chains and helping this offense control the clock the Cowboys are unstoppable.
Elliott has five games over 100 yards rushing this season, the Cowboys are 4-1 in those games. Going back to his rookie year in 2016, the Cowboys are 20-4 when Elliott reaches the century mark. Getting him going early establishes a physical tone and sets up Quarterback Dak Prescott to be productive in the play-action passing game.
The importance of getting Elliott going hasn’t been more evident than has been in the last month. He hasn’t reached 100 yards since Week 9 vs the New York Giants and the Cowboys have gone 1-3 over that span.
Specifically, the last two games for the Cowboys, have left people scratching their heads. In the first half vs the New England Patriots in Week 12, Elliott had it going as he racked up 61 yards. In the second half, he only had six carries for 25 yards with his last carry coming with around seven minutes to go in a 13-9 ball game. A very winnable game the Cowboys lost due in large part to the offense abandoning the run.
On Thanksgiving vs the Buffalo Bills, it was more of the same. Elliott rushed for 56 yards in the first half, however, he only had two carries for 15 yards in the second half. His last carry came with about nine minutes left in the third quarter in a 16-7 game that the Cowboys eventually lost. You have to feed Elliott once he’s established a rhythm early and the Cowboys failed in that category in this game.
When Elliott can’t get going running the football you can always use him in the passing game. In 2018, he caught 77 passes for 567 yards. This season, he hasn’t been used in the aerial assault as much but he already has the second-most receptions of his career with 39.
Dak Prescott has built a great connection with Elliott. He’s completed 78% of his targets to Elliott since their rookie campaigns in 2016. It would be smart for the Cowboys to take advantage of this chemistry between their two most important offensive weapons.
Ezekiel Elliott isn’t your typical one-dimensional running back, he’s special. When he is wearing down defenses with his bruising rushing style it forces more men in the box to stop him which leaves Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb in a lot of one on one situations. Also, getting the ball to Elliott on screens, wheel routes, swing routes, seam routes, or even out in the flat forces additional coverage to him which makes life easier for the receiving core as well.
The more dynamic the Cowboys offense can be by utilizing Elliott’s unique skill set will allow them to control the clock and keep their defensive teammates fresh late in games. The Cowboys only have a one-game lead in the NFC East heading into the final month of the season. If they want to repeat as division champs, it would be wise to use Elliott and all the tools he has in his tool bag.