Through two weeks, however, that next level had not been reached. Sure, the run game had been relatively effective, especially against the Washington Redskins, but the addition of Elliott did not seem warranted to many fans and football pundits.
Last Sunday against the Chicago Bears, all of those critics were forced to keep quiet. Elliott ran for 140 yards, and the Cowboys offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage for four quarters for the first time this year.
The improvement in a ton of areas was clear, but it was especially so with their execution of inside zone.
Time and time again the Cowboys burst out for big runs off of Elliott's backside cut on inside zone. Here you see the offensive line control each down linemen, allowing Travis Frederick to get to the second level and deliver the key block to spring Elliott.
Zeke does a fantastic job of reading Frederick's block and making his cut off of it, remaining patient and then accelerating through the hole for a big gain.
Through the first two games, La'el Collins had struggled mightily, arguably playing like the Cowboys' worst offensive linemen. Week three saw an improvement in his play, especially with this backside combo block on zone running plays.
Here we see Collins and first time starter Chaz Green execute a “combo” of sorts really nicely, as Green is able to cut the down lineman as Collins gets up to the next level.
Once again, Elliott remains calm and makes an excellent read to cut backside and get a nice gain.
Unfortunately, Collins later was injured and will miss significant time. His replacement, Ronald Leary, did a really nice job run blocking later in the game however, and I don't expect the Cowboys run game to lose a step with Leary playing.
Similar to Collins, Doug Free has been the recipient of slack from Cowboys fans this season due to some poor blocking. On this play, however, Free answers all of his critics. He takes control of the defender, and washes him down the line of scrimmage when he tries to swim away.
This wash down gives Elliott has a two-way go, and once again he is able to make the correct read and cut backside. Then comes the “Zeke Leap,” and the rest is history.
The Dallas Cowboys running game took a giant step forward last Sunday. Of course, some of that has to do with the quality of opponent they were facing. But I believe much of the success can be attributed to the Cowboys offensive line playing up to their ability, and Ezekiel Elliott displaying the patience and conditioning he was lacking during the first two games.
I expect another big game on the ground this Sunday, when the Cowboys travel to San Francisco.