The NFL off season can be a tricky time for fans and football writers alike. Prior to 32 teams opening up their training camps this summer on a quest towards Super Bowl LI, they must get through the remainder of June and most of July without a whole lot going on.
For Cowboys Nation to pass the time, we can always count on those lovable and incredibly accurate national headlines - right?
Wrong. It is at this point in the summer that outlets like Fox Sports always undervalue the Dallas Cowboys and their status entering the new season. While it is fair to say the team certainly has some question marks to address for 2016, the offensive line and rushing attack are two areas that Jason Garrett and the staff have to feel pretty comfortable about.
Recently, Fox Sports went ahead and ranked every rushing attack in the league, factoring in the overall talent on the offense along with the mobility of the team's quarterback.
You can check out the rankings right here, but you may be surprised at how much you have to scroll down before finding the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys, with Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Lance Dunbar, and Darius Jackson all currently on the roster, ranked sixth in the league. Coming in ahead of the Cowboys were - from highest to lowest - the Steelers, Panthers, Seahawks, Bills, and Cardinals.
Pittsburgh topping the list is not a shock, as Le'Veon Bell returns to a backfield that features the still-reliable DeAngelo Williams - who proved himself in the absence of Bell last season.
The second and third spots on this list went to teams that rely heavily on their quarterbacks for rushing success. While Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are unbelievably dangerous talents, there is no substitute for being able to run the ball effectively thanks mostly to your dominant offensive line like the Cowboys can.
Additionally, the Seahawks will be entering their first season in which Wilson will not have the luxury of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch. Thomas Rawls appears poised to have a breakout year there in Seattle, and will split carries with former Cowboy Christine Michael as well as rookies C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins.
This generally unproven backfield does not deserve a spot above the likes of the veterans the Cowboys employ like Morris and McFadden though, and that's without even factoring in Ezekiel Elliott.
That brings us to the Buffalo Bills, who led the league in rushing thanks mostly to LeSean McCoy. While their 2015 output on the ground was impressive, especially considering their lackluster QB and WR play, the "best" rushing attacks should be the ones that have the potential to win more games.
While I don't mind the Cardinals being directly ahead of the Cowboys, the truth is that Dallas should find themselves pulling away from Arizona into the top three on this list.
Here is exactly what Fox had to say about where they ranked the Cowboys, offering nothing but praise towards the entirety of the offense:
Despite having to deal with injuries and troubled players at the running back position (Joseph Randle), the Cowboys had the ninth-best rushing offense in the league last season. Darren McFadden led the bunch with 1,089 yards. McFadden is now dealing with an elbow injury suffered while dropping his phone, which gives way to the inevitable. Rookie Ezekiel Elliott enters the league with massive expectations running behind Dallas' star-studded offensive line. Furthermore, Lance Dunbar will be back, and the addition of Alfred Morris gives them a bruising back. Thanks to depth, overall talent and a great offensive line, the Cowboys will be one of the best offenses in the NFL.
What truly matters here is that Ezekiel Elliott should have every single Cowboys fan stoked for the upcoming season. Enough cannot be said about establishing an identity for your football team, and the Cowboys saw an opportunity to do just that when they added Zeke to run behind this offensive line with the fourth overall pick.
Opposing defensive coordinators are going to be terrified of Elliott, while also having to worry about the likes of Morris, Dunbar, and potentially Jackson. As if that wasn't enough, Cowboys' Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan can always have Tony Romo drop back and throw the ball to Dez Bryant and his host of targets.
The Cowboys rushing attack is going to be the heartbeat of this team in 2016, and our collective hearts are ready to watch it dominate on Sundays!
Where should the Cowboys rushing attack rank among the NFL's best? Comment below the article to start the conversation!
Was Sunday A “Wake Up Call,” Or Were Cowboys Exposed?
Entering last Sunday's game in Indianapolis, the Dallas Cowboys were riding high. Having won five straight games, including key victories over the top seeded Saints and division rival Eagles, everything seemed to be breaking right for the Cowboys heading into the home stretch.
Their defense was playing like one of the best in football, and after firing Paul Alexander and trading for Amari Cooper their offense was clicking just as they'd hoped. They needed (and still need) just one win to officially close out the division and clinch a home playoff game in January.
Instead, the Cowboys got absolutely demolished by the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, there's no shame in losing a road game to an 8-6 team in the NFL, but the way in which they lost certainly deserves some shame. Not even the 23-0 score can encapsulate the complete butt-kicking Dallas received at the hands of the Colts, and it was the type of loss that can sometimes make you question the blueprint.
The Cowboys, however, are not looking at it that way. Multiple leaders in the locker room have spoke this week about how they "needed" to lose like that. Running back Ezekiel Elliott called the loss embarrassing, but also said it is better for Dallas in the "grand scheme of the season."
Clearly, the leaders and coaches are calling the putrid performance a wake up call, something that will galvanize them and reset their win streak heading into the postseason. But is this really the case, or was the shutout defeat more of a sign of things to come?
Obviously it's too early to say for sure, but I do think it can be a little bit of both.
No, the Cowboys are not the class of the NFC, despite beating what can be called the best team in the same conference a couple weeks ago. There probably will prove to be some drop-off from the top 3 seeds in the conference and the Cowboys, if for no other reason than Dallas will have to go on the road to play those teams in the playoffs. It's really hard to win on the road in the NFL, especially with the increased wackiness of 2018.
The Cowboys offense is far from perfect or prolific, though if clicking they now have the skill talent to drop 30+ points any given Sunday. Their defense is talented, has a high ceiling, but is still very young and inexperienced. Though they've played elite level games before, they've also had some stinkers against the Colts and Titans during the same season.
All of this can be true. The Cowboys can be a team deserving of the playoffs, a team we should not be panicking over, but still a very flawed football team. They can be a team that if "hot" could make a run through the postseason, but also will have to answer some tough questions about coaches and players during the next two offseasons.
After all, who isn't greatly flawed in today's NFL? Hell, we just saw the beloved Rams lose two straight games.
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
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