Ezekiel Elliott was back at The Star yesterday, officially making his return to the 8-6 Dallas Cowboys ahead of two must-win regular season games against the Seahawks and Eagles. Winners of three straight without Elliott, the Cowboys are proving they belong in the discussion of the league's top teams - even as their playoff hopes depend on help from others around the NFC.
With Ezekiel Elliott at running back, considering the Cowboys as contenders becomes a much more universal thought. Even still, as Elliott stood in front of the media for the first time in front of his locker yesterday, reporters shamelessly could not help him move on from a reputation-damaging investigation that saw the NFL reach new heights in making a statement by sidelining one of their most visible stars.
Entitled, arrogant and completely unnecessary. The way Zeke handled today's joke of a presser shows why he thinks he can do whatever he wants, when he wants. He either received terrible PR advice or just doesn't get it. Full rant Thurs morning @1053thefan: https://t.co/sjbEQEWWWf
Ezekiel Elliott does not owe any of us anything. His job as a Dallas Cowboy, in the words of his Head Coach, is to compete and fight to be the best player he can every day. For six week's worth of game days, this right was taken away from Elliott as he fought this off-field battle as hard as he could.
The media also has a job to do, which makes asking Elliott about his time spent during the suspension fair game until he stated otherwise. Zeke chose to cut the interview session short after explicitly saying he was prepared to talk about the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys - with questions continuing to pour in about his suspension.
In other words, Ezekiel Elliott is ready to get back to work. At least within the confines of his own locker room and team facility, this work should not presently include trying to defend his name and alter his public perception - two things already tarnished by Roger Goodell's reactionary machine of a football league.
The Dallas Cowboys' organization fully supports Ezekiel Elliott, and Cowboys Nation must understand the resources this team has committed to him. Any prospect taken in the top five is going to be put under the most intense microscope by their drafting team.
Drafting a running back following a 4-12 campaign, the Cowboys felt comfortable taking a player in Elliott that had found success at every level in his career, exiting Ohio State as a national champion.
Perhaps it is the fact that the Cowboys have found ways to win with Alfred Morris and Rod Smith recently, but Ezekiel Elliott playing football again is about an exciting of a week 16 development as you'll ever see.
Elliott's focus is on doing just that - while finding ways to make good with his teammates, coaches, and the Cowboys - one practice, game, and snap at a time.
Zeke told me the reason his meeting with the media was so brief was because the media was not respecting his wishes of focusing on the future rather than the past. He told me that's why he trained in Cabo... so that he wouldn't be a distraction.
This is what football players do, this is the Cowboys' culture. The fact that this very article had to be written on Zeke's first night back is a horrifying reminder of why Ezekiel Elliott fought as hard as he did to get back to doing what he does best.
Let's all watch the Dallas Cowboys play football on Sunday with Ezekiel Elliott, shall we?
Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins
Strange things happen when these two NFC East foes tangle and you can add Sunday’s latest chapter to that list. As Dallas was driving late in the fourth-quarter and looking to take their first lead of the game, Dak Prescott was strip-sacked by Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan which was "returned" for a touchdown. That gave the ‘Skins a 20-10 advantage and a lead they would never relinquish.
It didn’t help that in the waning moments Cowboys’ long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur was flagged for moving the ball pre-snap. The attempt was moved back five yards, which certainly didn’t help kicker Brett Maher knock what would have been a game-tying field goal through the uprights.
He missed, Dallas lost, and here we are.
As the Cowboys ride off into the sunset for the next couple of weeks, it should be noted that this is a team that has been as good at home as they have been abysmal on the road. In Jerry’s World, the team is bathed in milk and honey winning all three games at home while on the road their slate stands at 0-4 after their Week 7 loss to Washington.
It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that will be scrutinized by players and coaching staff alike. But one thing the Cowboys have not done is fill the void vacated by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The latter retired voluntarily while the former was essentially made an offer he could most definitely refuse, a severe pay cut. As a result, Dak Prescott has yet to find an elite target to call his own.
Cole Beasley has done an admirable job stepping up but he checks in at No. 45 in receiving yards and is essentially a slot receiver as opposed to a speed merchant screaming down the sidelines. The Cowboys are ranked 29th in passing yards and 26th in points scored, which means something had to give - and it finally did.
Dallas swung a deal with Oakland for two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper who is struggling through his most difficult season yet. The 24-year-old Alabama product had a stellar rookie and sophomore campaign but 2017 proved to be his first not eclipsing 1,000-yards receiving and this season is even less impressive with only 280 yards and one touchdown thus far.
In return, Dallas sent their 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders who will now have three in the opening round next April.
If the Cowboys were going to make a deal for a skill player then they picked the perfect time. Cooper will have two weeks to get up to speed with the Dallas playbook and foster a relationship with Prescott. Without a legitimate deep threat, the Cowboys were going nowhere and this helps even the playing field.
The question is whether Cooper is a supernova whose time in the league was brief but spectacular or if he merely needed a change of scenery to reignite what was once a promising career. The Cowboys will learn one way or the other and have paid a fairly steep price to find out. However, if this move does bear fruit, it could mean the difference between an early vacation and a postseason invitation. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
As we often do when we turn the chapter on another week in the NFL, we look ahead to see what awaits and there is no better indicator as to which way the wind is blowing than our friends at Bovada, the sports betting industry’s mainstay that is always chief among the best online sportsbooks in the world. Bovada, as well as many other top-rated sportsbooks can be found all in one place, Sportsbook Review, so when in doubt, check them out.
When the Cowboys get back to work they will welcome the Tennessee Titans into AT&T Stadium (it will always be Cowboys Stadium to us) where we will see what the oddsmakers post in terms of the opening point spread. But until then, we will hope that our 'Boys return healthy and ready to roll with a brand-new weapon named Amari Cooper stretching the field and giving Prescott a deep threat… finally!
Dak Prescott: A+ Leader, But “C” Level QB Play
Let me start by saying this: as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I love Dak Prescott.
Prescott is everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He's a leader the players seem to respond to, he says all the "right" things in the media and, most importantly, he competes like hell every Sunday. Never, not even when Chaz Green failed him to the tune of 6 Adrian Clayborn sacks, has Dak Prescott quit on the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the National Football League that simply isn't enough, and never was that more clear than during last Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins.
On the surface, Sunday looks like one of Prescott's better games in 2018. He threw for over 250 yards for just the second time this year, he brought the Cowboys back from down 10 late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance at overtime, and he battled back from a vicious head shot which Tony Romo immediately said would sideline him the remainder of the game.
As usual Dak Prescott did not quit, and he helped to give the Cowboys a chance to win.
But when you look a bit deeper than just the surface narrative you see that Prescott is more of a reason the team lost Sunday than nearly won.
Repeatedly Prescott made the same types of mistakes he's been making since his miracle rookie season came to an end, and once again they were the downfall of this Cowboys offense. Too often he holds onto the ball longer than he should, fails to recognize open receivers, doesn't trust himself to make tight window throws, and abandons clean pockets when he has seemingly no reason to do so.
The two plays which really lost the Cowboys the game on Sunday occurred back to back. And, ironically, they represent Dak Prescott and his Cowboys career in a nut shell.
The first play was third and medium late in the 4th quarter. Prescott and the Cowboys were down 3 and needed the first down to keep a potential game changing drive alive. Prescott stood firm in the pocket, trusted Cole Beasley, and delivered a strike for a huge first down. The problem? Holding was called on Connor Williams and the play was brought back.
Then came third and long, with Prescott backed up near his own goal line. Despite the longer distance, Dak Prescott had at least one if not two open options down the field to convert the first down, and enough time in the pocket to make the play. Instead, Prescott felt phantom pressure and spun out of a clean pocket, getting disoriented and fumbling the ball in the end zone.
It went from 13-10 first down Cowboys, to 20-10 game over in a split second. And while, of course, the holding was not his fault, that sack fumble was absolutely egregious. Especially in their own end zone and especially as Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott were both open for potential first downs.
While the Cowboys skill position players haven't been particularly good this season, the front office went out and tried to make a change to that this week by trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. There's no more excuses left for this passing offense.
The Cowboys need to be able to play modern offense in the NFL, and to do so their quarterback has to play better than he has for most of 2018. Now that they are without a first round pick in 2019 Dak probably has another uncontested year ahead as the starter. But beyond that Prescott will need prove that he belongs and deserves franchise quarterback type money.
For the Cowboys sake, I hope he raises his play to that level soon.
The Cowboys Are What They’ve Been Since ’96: Average
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have been trafficking in overzealous fan hope for quite some time. For much of the past 20 years they have spent their offseasons making minor roster tweaks, maintaining the same core and swearing they are one of the more talented teams in the NFL.
If we just got one call... If Tony Romo stays heathy...If Sean Lee stays healthy...If Ezekiel Elliott wasn't suspended...
A whole lot of "ifs." That's what the Dallas Cowboys have been characterized by since they last held the Lombardi Trophy in January of 1996. And even in the more recent years, where Jerry Jones has pulled back a bit of his control and allowed Stephen and company to make the roster decisions, the Cowboys have stayed the same average franchise.
So last Sunday when Dak Prescott took an inexcusable sack in the end zone, missing multiple open receivers and handing a key divisional game over to Washington, I wasn't surprised. When Jason Garrett coached scared down the stretch, settling for a 47 yard field goal in the cold and windy weather to tie, I wasn't surprised. And when the Cowboys were called for a snap infraction to back that field goal attempt up over 50 yards, well, that's the same old Cowboys that I have always known.
If there's a way to lose a football game, the Dallas Cowboys of the last two decades will find it.
Sure there's a couple of 13-3 and 12-4 seasons in there, but there are also multiple 4-12 years to offset that. Sure there have been years where the Cowboys seemed to be just a play or two away from taking that next step, but the bottom line is they haven't.
Yes the Cowboys finally attempted to turn over their roster in recent years, but they rode "the hot hand" right into the ground at quarterback. And at this point, there's simply no denying it.
We are the Bengals. We are the Dolphins. We are the Lions. We are every average, middling, quarterback-purgatory-living franchise in the NFL. And, as usual, it starts at the top. If things are going to change and the Cowboys are going to become the Cowboys ever again, I highly doubt Jason Garrett will be the one to do it.
Ironically, all is not lost this season. The Cowboys will probably win their next game against the Titans and get back to .500 before a big game with the Eagles. And they'll probably hang around 7-9 or 8-8 this season, falsely believing they are "in the hunt" all year because that's who they are.
And unless massive, franchise changing decisions are made this offseason, that's who they'll stay.
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