When people consider the best running backs in the NFL, typically they talk about Le’Veon Bell or Todd Gurley, or even David Johnson, but outside of Dallas it seems like Ezekiel Elliott rarely gets discussed in the best running back in the NFL conversation.
We’ve all heard the narrative.
“Zeke is just a product of the offensive line.”
Well, I think we can put that one to bed.
Against a really good Washington Redskins defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys started Cameron Fleming, Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Joe Looney along the offensive line with projected starters Zack Martin and La'el Collins. With three backup offensive linemen in the game, Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 26 times for 121 yards and a touchdown.
Even with the Cowboys running out a backup offensive line in every game this season, two backups in the last three games, and three backup offensive linemen on Thanksgiving Day, Ezekiel Elliott now leads the NFL in rushing yards through 11 games. With 11 games played each, Elliott and Todd Gurley are the only players in the NFL with more than 1,000 yards rushing on the season. Elliott has a 31 yard lead on the Los Angeles Rams running back.
Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing in 2016 and nearly had 1,000 yards rushing in 2017 despite missing six games due to suspension. In 2018, Elliott is again have a tremendous season. With two or more backup offensive linemen in the game each of the last three weeks, he's run for more than 120 yards in each game. That’s the second time in his career that he’s ran for 120 in three straight games. Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett each have only one stretch in which they ran for more than 120 in three straight games.
Ezekiel Elliott is leading the NFL in yards after contact with nearly 700 rushing yards, which would be the ninth highest rushing yardage total in the league this year. Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt are the only other players in the NFL with more than 600 yards after contact. Elliott is second in the NFL to Gurley in first downs on the ground, but leads the NFL in rushes for more than 10 yards.
Ezekiel Elliott has: * 6 games with 100+ rush yards this season (Most in NFL) * 11 games with 100+ rush yards since 2017 (T-Most in NFL, Todd Gurley) * 18 games with 100+ rush yards since 2016 (Most in NFL) #DallasCowboys
When you consider that Ezekiel Elliott sat out the week 17 game vs the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 and sat out the six to suspension in 2017, he's played in 36 games. That's a 100 yard rushing game every other week. Todd Gurley has played in 42 games since 2016 and only has rushed for 100 yards only 11 times.
We've heard for more than two years now that Ezekiel Elliott is the product of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. To their credit, they were great in 2016, pretty good in 2017, and have been good in 2018, but what this season highlights is that Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best in the NFL.
This isn't to take away from the play that the backup offensive lineman have provided, because they've been serviceable to good, but what we're seeing is why Ezekiel Elliott was drafted as the fourth overall pick in 2016. He's an elite player who is able to make those around him better. He makes a great offensive line elite and makes a good offensive line great.
It's time to have the conversation about Ezekiel Elliott as the best running back in the NFL. Todd Gurley is great in his own right, but he's also had the benefit of a better passing game over the last couple of years than Elliott has had and yet, Elliott is leading the NFL in rushing. I don't know a fan that follows the NFL that would rather have the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff over Sean McVay and his staff in Los Angeles. Despite what is perceived to be a poor coaching staff by many pundits, Elliott is leading the league.
So with backup offensive lineman, an average passing game, and an average coaching staff, Ezekiel Elliott is on a roll and doesn't look like he'll be slowing down any time soon. What might have been a foregone conclusion with Gurley running away with the rushing title, may now be a heated race down the stretch. Whether Elliott wins his second rushing title in three years or not, I think it's safe to say that we can put the "Elliott is a product of the offensive line" narrative to bed.
If there's a positive that can be taken away from the health issues along the offensive line, it's that Elliott is not a product of the offensive line and he never has been. If anything, he's an offensive line enhancer.
Cowboys K Brett Maher’s 63-Yard Field Goal Sets New NFL Record
After hitting a 63-yard field goal last night in the Dallas Cowboys' win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Kicker Brett Maher now owns the NFL record for most field goal made at 60 yards or longer. It was the third 60-plus FG of his career and second so far this season.
Maher hit a 62-yarder last week in Dallas' loss to the New York Jets. That kick tied him with Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein for having two career field goals of 60 or more.
Now Brett stands alone in that category. Last night's kick also was just one yard shy of Matt Prater's record for the NFL's longest field goal; Maher hit from 64 yards in 2013.
If Brett Maher ever gets a chance to kick in Denver, he may have a great shot at breaking Prater's record as well. According to NBC's data from last night, Maher's kick would have been good from 66 yards out.
It was a good night overall for the Cowboys kicker. Maher had two other makes from 26 and 29 yards.
Despite his heroics at times, Brett Maher has been one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL the last two years. Even after last night Brett is hitting just 71.4% of his field goals so far in 2019; that ties him for 25th in the league.
The most puzzling aspect of all with Maher is how much he struggles with shorter range kicks. You almost have more confidence in him kicking from 60 yards out than attempting an extra point.
Few kickers could survive that kind of performance and uncertainty, but few can do what Maher can with his long range ability. It's a risk/reward situation that the Cowboys are continuing to work with.
For today, at least, Maher and his team are basking in the glory of a great game. Let's hope both can keep up the positive momentum.
Cowboys Get Good News on Vander Esch, Quinn Injuries After Eagles Game
The Dallas Cowboys got a big win last night over the Philadelphia Eagles, but there was concern that they also suffered some big injuries. But good news; despite their leaving the game and not returning, both LB Leighton Vander Esch and DE Robert Quinn appear to have avoided any significant issues.
Vander Esch suffered a neck stinger in the second quarter and did not come back. It appears he was held out as a precautionary measure, and the Cowboys' 21-7 lead at that point may have contributed to the decision.
Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch just told me he's good. First neck stinger. Disputes "history" of neck issues reports. Told me he would have continued playing but "wasn't up to me
Quinn's rib injury also occurred before halftime and ended his night. The veteran picked up his obligatory sack before going out, and it sounds like he should be fine for Dallas' next game.
From @GMFB: The #Cowboys got a few injury scares, but LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and LB Robert Quinn (rib) are expected to be OK. https://t.co/ld1mncRkNw
These defensive standouts join a host of Cowboys starters who are going to benefit greatly from the team's bye week.
Dallas went into the game with injury concerns to WRs Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, OTs Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, and CBs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. Of those, Brown was the only one who did not play last night.
Still, all of these players need a week to rest and be ready for the long haul of the regular season.
The Cowboys will get back to work in Week 9 with a road trip to New York, facing the Giants on Monday Night Football.
Thankfully, it looks like Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn will both be ready to play in two weeks.
Dallas Cowboys Optimistic that Amari Cooper Returns Sunday
It doesn't take a deep look at the Dallas Cowboys offense over the last year and not see the significant impact that Amari Cooper has had. He's been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL over the last calendar year and has opened up so much for the Cowboys offense both with his impact as a pass catcher and for the attention he draws from opposing defenses. In Cooper's last 15 regular-season games with the Dallas Cowboys, he's caught 86 passes on 121 targets for 1,240, and 11 touchdowns. He's been everything the Cowboys front office could have hoped for when they made the trade with the Oakland Raiders after week seven of the 2018 season.
Amari Cooper has been dealing with foot issues since training camp and then went out on the first offensive series against the New York Jets with a thigh contusion. His absence was definitely felt as the offense struggled to find any rhythm in the first half of their week six loss.
Though he hasn't practiced this week there is some optimism that Cooper could potentially practice on Friday and play in this pivotal week seven matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. A contusion is basically a bone bruise, which is painful and can inhibit movement and flexibility. The most important thing to judge when determining if Cooper will be able to play or not is the level of inflammation that still persists in this leg. If the inflammation is better and he has better movement and flexibility in the leg, then he should be able to go.
Amari Cooper had a field day against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 14 of the 2018 season when he caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Even in the week 10 contest, Cooper caught six passes for 75 yards. He's had a ton of success against the Eagles and with them still having injury issues in the secondary, there's a possibility for him to have another big game this week if he's able to play.
It's an encouraging sign that he's going to try practice today given the concern during the game in the days just after the week six contest. We'll have to keep an eye on how Friday goes and the pregame reports, but if all goes well, the Cowboys offense will be in much better shape with Cooper back on the field.
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