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Ezekiel Elliott: Rushing Towards Rookie Glory

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott

Through eight games in his rookie season, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has 891 rushing yards. Zeke has led the league for several weeks now, but a few backs are not far behind.

  1. Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott Is Probably Better Than Emmitt Smith, and the NFC East Is Noticing 1Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) - 891 yards
  2. DeMarco Murray (Titans) - 807 yards
  3. Melvin Gordon (Chargers) - 768 yards
  4. David Johnson (Cardinals) - 705 yards

The only problem for Murray and Gordon is that their total has come in nine games, having not yet had their bye weeks. Elliott has already had his bye week and has an extra game to continue to build his lead.

Running games tend to slow down toward the end of the year. Even when Murray was breaking the Cowboys' single-season record in 2014, his production tapered off down the stretch. As players start to get worn down over the long season, their numbers go down accordingly.

This is where Elliott's youth will play a huge advantage, particularly with Murray. At 21-years-old and as a rookie, he has much fresher legs than Murray at age 28 and in his sixth season. Gordon and Johnson are both just in their second years and are still young, but still have more tire tread than Zeke.

Perhaps even more importantly, Elliott has the Cowboys offensive line. As the season goes on and physical explosiveness starts to wane in defenders, the talent and chemistry of a good offensive line can shine even more. The Cowboys' ability to dominate the ball and wear down defenses throughout games will be even more effective in November and December.

Yesterday, DeMarco Murray had just 54 yards in a loss to the Chargers. David Johnson had an even worse day, only 24 yards, in Arizona's loss to the Panthers. These guys, Melvin Gordon, and just about any RB in the league are more likely to have a slow week like that than Ezekiel Elliott is. It only takes a couple to sink you in the rushing race.

Elliott is still threatening Eric Dickerson's rookie record of 1,808 yards. If you double his current 891-yard total it comes out to 1,782 yards. However, that doesn't factor in Elliott's quiet first game of 51 yards. His current pace puts his projection for the season closer to 1,900 yards.

Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott's Smooth Path to 2016 Rushing Title 1Speaking of records, Elliott will soon be the Cowboys best rookie rusher of all time. And when I say "soon," I could mean this Sunday. He only needs 117 yards against the Steelers to set the new record.

  1. Tony Dorsett (1977) - 1007 yds
  2. Calvin Hill (1969) - 942 yds
  3. Emmitt Smith (1990) - 937 yds
  4. DeMarco Murray (2011) - 897 yards

If not in Pittsburgh, Elliott will almost certainly pass Dorsett's mark the following week against the Baltimore Ravens. He is on pace for Dickerson's league record and to become one of the few rookies to lead the NFL in rushing.

The numbers will drive national attention, but Zeke's greatness is on display even when he's not breaking 100 yards. Yesterday, we saw him eek out a touchdown with a reach over the goal line that few back could have accomplished. His ability to finish plays with either speed or power is rare.

Back in April, I questioned if Elliott could live up to being the fourth-overall pick. Even if he had big numbers, I thought he might not create enough distance between guys like DeMarco Murray or Darren McFadden to justify such a big investment.

Boy, was I wrong.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.

From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.

Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.

They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.

Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

https://t.co/za0u3lWgaY

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp" 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 & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract

Jess Haynie

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Which 2018 Free Agents Will The Cowboys Retain? 1
Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportwire

DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future  beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.

According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.

Jon Machota on Twitter

DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million

This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.

Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.

This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.

Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.

There is risk on both sides, of course.

Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.

Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.



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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?

Sean Martin

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster? 2
(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.

This group includes Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Lance Lenoir, Deonte Thompson, Cedrick Wilson, Michael Gallup, KD Cannon, Mekale McCay, and Marchie Murdock.

The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.

One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.

Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.

What Happens if WR Allen Hurns Doesn't Pan Out?

Dallas Cowboys WR Deonte Thompson, Cedrick Wilson, Allen Hurns (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.

This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.

Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.

Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.

Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.

Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster?

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.

It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.

Tell us what you think about "Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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