Like clockwork, the Dallas Cowboys are preparing star running back Ezekiel Elliott to get his only work of the preseason for 2017 this Saturday against the Raiders at home - as they did in Elliott's rookie season during the Cowboys' week three dress rehearsal game in Seattle. Eerily similar is another black cloud that hangs over Elliott's head now, as last year's Seattle trip brought along the controversy of the fourth overall pick visiting a legal marijuana dispensary before debuting against the Seahawks.
Check out every rush by Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot as he took on the Seattle Seahawks during week 3 of their 2016 preseason matchup. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Subscribe to the NFL YouTube channel to see immediate in-game highlights from your favorite teams and players, daily fantasy football updates, all your favorite NFL Network podcasts, and more!
Now, there is the ongoing discussion over his six game suspension for the start of the season due to "conduct detrimental to the league" that will hold Elliott back as he prepares to potentially tease Cowboys Nation by looking like the reigning NFL rushing champion he is for some time Saturday, only to be absent for a significant stretch of meaningful football come September.
Unlike in his first preseason, Elliott has been healthy enough to play in the first three preseason games for the Cowboys, being held out simply because of his value - with added necessity thanks to his suspension not being enforced should Zeke end up injured and unable to play.
Availability updates aside, as Elliott will have his suspension appeal hearing on Tuesday, Cowboys' Head Coach Jason Garrett interestingly said that, "having the mindset of preparing him for week one of the season," is the goal for #21 ahead of playing for the first time this weekend.
Ezekiel Elliott set to play Saturday in #OAKvsDAL: https://t.co/bnmqndIC6V
Until officially announced otherwise, Ezekiel Elliott is not the starting running back in week one for the Cowboys against the Giants, but he will be at AT&T Stadium against a Raiders team that should present a good challenge to the Cowboys on both sides of the ball.
Perhaps more importantly, QB Dak Prescott will play the most he has this preseason after looking incredibly sharp against the Colts last week.
Should Prescott and Elliott pick up right where they left off, the notion that the Cowboys can't contend in the NFC with Elliott suspended could quickly go away - and be much more than an arbitrary preseason hot take.
As down-the-roster battles inevitably unfold later in the evening on Saturday for the Cowboys, with plenty of fans admittedly holding their breath to see Cooper Rush, the hope for this team has to be that Dak and Zeke can once again ignite a spark of hope for a torch they carried all the way to the NFC Divisional Playoffs just a year ago. There are in fact plenty of positive things that happened with the defending NFC East champions through the offseason and into this preseason, and one of them is set to be Ezekiel Elliott carrying the ball for America's Team tomorrow.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cowboys CB Marquez White Facing Assault Charges
Player news this time of year is often not the good kind, and such is true of a new development with Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White. The second-year CB is facing aggravated assault charges for an incident last October.
According to the report, White displayed a legally owned firearm during a "road rage" incident.
Marquez, a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys last season, has made his side of the story public. The following account was released by White to The Dothan Eagle, his hometown newspaper:
Naturally, we're in a wait-and-see situation as to how this case unfolds and impacts White's availability to the Cowboys in 2018. He is one of several players hoping to catch on at the bottom of the CB depth chart, having spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
This latest legal issue is especially unwelcome news after other Cowboys' recent problems. The team has seen David Irving get suspended four games for illegal substances and Terrance Williams' get arrested for public intoxication in the last two months.
Last year, Linebacker Damien Wilson was charged for aggravated assault in a somewhat similar situation to that of Marquez White. Those charges were eventually dropped.
What happens in White's case remains to be seen.
Deadline for DeMarcus Lawrence Contract Extension Nearing
NFL teams have until July 16 to work out a long-term extension with any players currently under the franchise tag, which means the Dallas Cowboys have about a week to work something out with Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. If deals are not signed and approved by the league by 4 P.M. ET July 16, the sides cannot agree to new contracts until after the 2018 season ends.
Along with the Lawrence, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, Detroit Lions DE Ziggy Ansah, and Los Angeles Rams S Lamarcus Joyner have franchise tags slapped on them. All of them would love the long-term security a contract extension would provide, but they are all going to have to wait and see what the upcoming week has in store for them.
So, what will the Dallas Cowboys decide to do with DeMarcus Lawrence? Can they come to terms on a long-term contract extension before the deadline on July 16?
Luckily for Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys seem open about hearing what he believes his market value is. That doesn't mean he will get his asking price, but the talks have to begin somewhere.
Rumors are already circulating that Lawrence is seeking a five-year extension and wants to make more money than Danielle Hunter, who the Vikings just signed to a five-year $72 million contract. That's probably more money than the Cowboys have in mind at this time. They may prefer to wait and see if he can replicate what he accomplished in 2017.
Last season DeMarcus Lawrence turned into the "War Daddy" Owner Jerry Jones has been seeking for the defense. He accumulated a career-high 14.5 quarterback sacks and finally played an entire 16 game season. But, even that may not be worth the money he is rumored to be seeking right now.
Hunter's five-your $72 million contract extension is the going price right now for someone of Lawrence's caliber, but there are other players in line for a big payday as well. Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Jadeveon Clowney are all in the same boat as Lawrence. What kind of extensions they receive could change the going rate, which could cause some hesitance on the Cowboys part.
Fortunately, I kind of doubt DeMarcus Lawrence is going to complain much if he has to play the 2018 season under the franchise tag. He will make a little over $17 million for one year and has a chance to cash in big time if he can replicate what he did a season ago.
Would you sign DeMarcus Lawrence to an extension before the July 16 deadline?
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