But last week a couple of Twitter polls got me very interested in this topic, and I wanted to expand on my thoughts.
It all started when longtime Cowboys reporter Mike Fisher wrote that as the Cowboys look to sign their own free agents, Byron Jones will likely be the one who gets squeezed out. So while Elliott, Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, and Jaylon Smith remain with the team, Jones will likely be off to find a new home.
if you can only pay one it should be
I put up this poll, pitting Jones against Elliott, and Jones came out as the winner. My colleague John Williams put out the same poll, but with Elliott running away for the victory.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
His had many more votes, which likely makes his poll a bit more representative of the fan base's feelings (which reminds me, follow me on Twitter @KevinBrady88.) Plus, I have been carrying the Byron Jones flag for quite some time, so it's possible my followers are biased towards Jones.
Either way, let's examine the situation here.
On one hand is Ezekiel Elliott. The former fourth overall selection in 2016, Elliott has led the league in rushing two of his first three seasons in the NFL. While this is true, his ability (and usage) as a receiver deserves to be questioned, and his lack of touchdown production in comparison to some other elite-level backs is concerning as well.
Yes, this is not totally his fault, as Scott Linehan and an overall lack of offensive weapons outside of Elliott have handcuffed him a bit. But if we are going to place the blame for his faults onto others, then we should at least attribute some of his excellent raw rushing totals simply to opportunities.
Elliott carried the ball 304 times in 15 games, averaging 20.3 rush attempts per game. The next closet player in terms of total carries? Saquon Barkley, who carried it 261 times in 16 games, averaging 16.3 rushes per game. That's a massive gap.
No individual running back is taking the wear and tear that Elliott is on a per game basis. And while it helps make his raw rushing totals look outstanding, it is also likely hurting his shelf life as an elite runner in the NFL.
The main argument I received supporting paying Elliott over Byron Jones was that while cornerback is more important than running back in a vacuum, Elliott is such a special player that his importance is greater than that of a normal running back.
Maybe. But let's talk about how special Byron Jones is and can be.
Jones' spider chart puts him in elite company, with the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Antonio Cromartie, and Terence Newman. Except, Jones was even more athletic that each of these Pro Bowl caliber cornerbacks.
Cornerbacks with the athletic profile that Byron Jones has rarely ever miss, and most of the time they reach an All Pro level. This is exactly what Jones did in 2018, getting named second team All Pro and to his first Pro Bowl in the same season. Both these honors also came during his first season as a full-time cornerback. Imagine what his ceiling can look like as he continues to work with Kris Richard and get more comfortable in his permanent home.
There's no doubt that Jones struggled a bit more in December last year than he did in September, but he was playing at a pace few players ever have played at or kept up over a long period of time. Even accounting for these "struggles," Jones was graded as the sixth best cornerback in all of football by Pro Football Focus. Elliott, on the other hand, had his overall value questioned by PFF.
Of course PFF is not the be-all-end-all here, but it's certainly a piece of the argument. Both Elliott and Jones will command top money at their position whenever it is their turn to get signed. The Cowboys have struggled for years to find themselves a number one cornerback. Despite paying Brandon Carr big money and trading up for Morris Claiborne, it simply hasn't worked. Really since Newman began aging, they haven't gotten that guy.
On the other hand, Dallas produced two 1,000 yard rushers back-to-back seasons before Elliott even became a Cowboy. Running back is a more replaceable position at the top than cornerback is, and if Dallas believes that Jones should be considered "at the top" of his position group, than the choice between the two becomes clear.
I will say, however, that there is a human element to this as well. Elliott is a clear leader on this team, and if the Cowboys strong-armed him out of town, it could have serious implications across the roster. Jason Garett loves Zeke, Jerry Jones loves Zeke, and quarterback Dak Prescott loves Zeke.
Zeke is going to get paid by the Cowboys, I have no doubts or issues with that, but if all these guys getting paid squeezes an All Pro corner out of town, that could bite this franchise in the butt down the line.
Ezekiel Elliott Continues to Haunt Eagles, has Best Game of the Season
The Dallas Cowboys came into their Week 7 matchup with the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles on a three-game losing streak and were searching desperately for answers. With first place in the NFC East on the line, it was important for the Cowboys to set a tone and send a message at home in order to avoid going into their bye week with a fourth straight loss. That tone was set by the defense in the first quarter as they forced turnovers on the first two possessions of the game. Conversely, All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott led the offensive attack and continued the dominance he's had over the Eagles throughout his career.
After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead following a fumble on the Eagle's first possession, the Cowboys made it a two-score game in a matter of seconds. In the video below, Elliott appears to score from 14 yards out but would be ruled down inside the one. What's important to notice is how he sought out Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins and ran him over. Complete "Bully Ball" tactic here and it again sent a message and establish a tone for this game. Elliott would score on the very next play to give the Cowboys a 14-0 lead.
Zeke TRUCKED him 😡 @EzekielElliott https://t.co/x2G4rF2cwU
Elliott had 65 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown as well as 25 yards on four receptions the first half. The Cowboys led 27-7 heading into the third quarter.
The second half saw more of the same as Elliott had 11 touches (9 carries, 2 receptions) for 57 all-purpose yards. In all, Elliott finished with 147 all-purpose yards (111 rushing, 36 receiving) as he spearheaded the Cowboys to a 37-10 beatdown of their most hated division rival.
This game was a continuation of what Elliott has done to the Eagles his entire career. His lowest rushing total against Philadelphia is 96 yards which came in his first-ever game in this historic rivalry back in 2016 as a rookie. He's rushed for least 103 yards every game since and averages 163 all-purpose yards every time he plays Philadelphia. Most importantly, the Cowboys are a perfect 5-0 with Elliott against the Eagles. The only games the Eagles have won against the Cowboys since Elliott came into the NFL was the 2016 season finale and the first of their two matchups in 2017, games Elliott did not play in. Needless to say, Elliott has a big appetite for Eagle meat.
This game also saw Elliott reach another milestone in his short but stellar career. He joined Le'Veon Bell and Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson as the second-fastest players (47 games) to reach 6,000 yards from scrimmage behind Edgerrin James (44 games) in NFL history. Now that's an elite group to be a part of.
The importance of this game was obvious for the Cowboys coming off at three consecutive losses and facing a heated rival for first place. Elliott spoke post-game about how critical this win was:
"This team needed this, especially in the fashion we did it," Elliott said. "Get some momentum for the season and before this bye week so we can close the season out."
Everything you would want to see from Elliott was on display against the Eagles. The speed, power, elusiveness, and ability to make plays in the passing game were all front and center in this game. From an overall standpoint, this was definitely his best performance of the 2019 season.
Now, the Cowboys head into the bye week in first place in the NFC East and regardless of next week's results, they will still be on top when they face the New York Giants on the road on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys will look to remain undefeated in division play and keep pace with the other NFC powerhouses once they return to action.
Where Does Ezekiel Elliott Stand in the 2019 Rushing Title Race?
The Dallas Cowboys finally looked like the team we've all expected them to be against the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday. They played a complete-game and absolutely dominated on both offense and defense. This is the kind of performance they needed heading into the bye week.
As stoked I am by the way the Dallas Cowboys played Sunday night against a divisional opponent, I was even more ecstatic to see Running Back Ezekiel Elliott look like the playmaker he has in the past. He showed excellent vision, speed, and burst, something I really haven't seen him do up to this point of the season.
I know quite a few of you may disagree with me, but No. 21 hasn't really looke2 like himself at any point this season. He did however look like the Zeke of old on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. It good to see and it actually started me wondering where he currently stood in the 2019 rushing title race?
Let's take a look…
I don't know exactly what I expected, but I was little surprised to see Zeke currently sitting at number five amongst the NFL's leading rushers. I don't know if I was expecting him to be a little higher or lower, but he currently finds himself within striking distance to claim his third rushing title in four years.
Ezekiel Elliott is only 123 rushing yards behind Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook right now. Unfortunately, that number will only increase in Week 8 with the Dallas Cowboys on their bye week. But, it could all even out since only Nick Chubb is the only RB ahead of Zeke whose team has also had their bye week. And with half of the season left there is still plenty of time to close the gap.
Ezekiel Elliott may be down right now, but he's definitely not out. He's going to play a huge role in the offensive game plan for the rest of the season and should be able to put himself into contention of earning his third rushing title in four years. But, it won't be easy. The Cowboys schedule only gets tougher from here on out.
What do you think? Will Ezekiel Elliott be the leading rusher in 2019?
Urban Meyer Says He’d “Absolutely” Take Cowboys’ Head Coaching Job
Typically, when a coach is asked about a potential future coaching job that is currently occupied, he'd never openly admit to eyeing that position. He'd dodge the question, lie, and say he's enjoying his time away from the game at the moment.
Former college coach Urban Meyer, however, was extremely clear in how he feels about the potential opening at head coach in Dallas with the Cowboys.
Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd asked Urban Meyer outright if he would take the job if offered, and Meyer made no mistake about it.
While it feels to me like Meyer is breaking some sort of unspoken code between coaches with these comments, it wouldn't be the first time he operated in shady waters.
But I digress.
Of course, Urban Meyer had incredible success at the collegiate level. He won multiple national championships and did a lot of winning at multiple programs. In addition, he was the college coach of Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who the team just extended with a monster contract. Meyer also won with quarterbacks who can utilize similar skill-sets to Cowboys starter Dak Prescott, something Jerry Jones and company would want to see in any potential head coaching candidate.
With all that being said, though, it's important to mention the Cowboys head coaching job is not open. At least not yet.
Jason Garrett's contract expires at the end of this season, and unless he can make sure that he continues coaching this team through January, it's seeming increasingly likely that this will be his final contract with the team.
Garrett's Cowboys face their biggest test of the season on Sunday night, with the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Arlington and looking to take first place from their grasps.
This will be the first step of many that Garrett will need to take if he wants to keep the Urban Meyers of the world from coming for his job.
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