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Sean’s Scout: Impact Of Ezekiel Elliott’s Return On Cowboys Offense

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Impact Of Ezekiel Elliott's Return On Cowboys Offense

The defending NFL rushing champion is back to run behind the best offensive line in the league again, as Ezekiel Elliott is set to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas Eve against the Seahawks. Having served his six game suspension, Elliott played in the Cowboys' first eight games of this season - totaling 783 rushing yards on 191 carries.

An average of just under 24 rushing attempts per game, there is no doubt the Cowboys are excited about adding Zeke back to an offense that is still leading a team in contention for an NFC playoff berth.

Much has been made about Elliott's playing weight heading into these final two regular season games, as downtime spent in Mexico has the 2016 first round pick looking like he did at Ohio State. With this in mind, I decided to look at the film from Elliott's early season contributions and highlight what the Cowboys are getting back on Sunday.

Ezekiel Elliott Vs Packers - Streamable

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As I wrote about in my Sean's Scout piece following this team's win in Oakland last week, the Cowboys did not utilize both of their RBs in Alfred Morris and Rod Smith as effectively as they could have. Thus, the first thing the Cowboys are adding with Elliott is a dynamic player that combines the strengths of every back below him on the depth chart while adding his own special talents in a rare mix of physical traits.

Ezekiel Elliott was drafted to punish defenses on the second and third level, and if he has truly committed to playing with less weight that he did earlier in this season, the Cowboys' running game is going to be as explosive as ever.

Running behind an offensive line that essentially grants any back a free pass to the second level, Elliott reads blocks in front of him with elite vision and quickness. In the above play against the Packers,watch as Elliott picks up speed to the outside and commits to his path up the field with Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith out in front.

The angle Elliott takes allows Smith to reach the only defender with a chance to limit the gain on this play, as Zeke uses his block to cut back to the sideline and finish the run.

Ezekiel Elliott Vs 49ers - Streamable

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Having a player that can break you for a big play on every snap completely changes a defense's perspective, but one that can take the angle on all eleven guys and score is the definition of a "match up nightmare".

Jonathan Cooper and La'el Collins' blocks pave the path for Elliott to spring into the end zone here, but the burst he cuts through the hole with is enough to completely change the dynamic of this Dallas offense upon his return.

Alfred Morris and Rod Smith did a fine job in Ezekiel Elliott's absence at keeping Dak Prescott ahead of the chains, but he still faced tough passing situations on later downs as Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley were routinely double covered.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Dez Bryant on Ezekiel Elliott returning and the impact it'll have on how teams defend Dez: "Double all you want, he's gonna rush for 350.

Now, a Cowboys passing game built around winning individual match ups can once again thrive off of using Zeke Elliott as a rusher, pass catcher, and blocker.

Ezekiel Elliott Vs Giants - Streamable

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This play from all the way back in week one may not be the longest gain of Elliott's season, but it was one of my favorite plays to see on film. With the Giants creating good penetration here, Elliott amazingly squares his shoulders to the sideline with the backside pursuit on him.

Still able to find his way out to the pulling blocks of Zack Martin and La'el Collins, Elliott's patience and vision is rewarded as he extends the play through a small crease for a first down - delivering a big blow at the end of the run.

Paired with the expectation that Elliott will carry the ball with even more elusiveness moving forward, preparing for a Seahawks defense that was just shredded for 244 yards on the ground via the LA Rams, the Cowboys offense should quickly remind people in week 16 that they won 13 games with this same unit just last year.

Ezekiel Elliott Vs Rams - Streamable

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Ground plays like these were simply missing in Dallas without Ezekiel Elliott, and a 3-3 record through the games they played without him is likely all Cowboys Nation could have asked for. It may have them in a precarious position for the playoffs, and two games of Zeke will surely do little to fill our appetite for Scott Linehan's unit pouring on points, but ending the season with continuity on this side of the ball is so important.

Should the Cowboys sneak into the playoffs with a fresh and motivated Ezekiel Elliott? A season mired in controversy and disappointment could have the sweetest of endings thanks to this generational talent being given the early Christmas gift of fresh legs in must-win games.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Impact Of Ezekiel Elliott’s Return On Cowboys Offense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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1 Comment
  • Randy Martin

    For those that continue to bemoan and place blame at the feet of the loss of Elliot for our 3-3 record let me draw your attention to the loss of Sean Lee and Tyron Smith in those 3 losses. Against Atlanta we trailed 10-7 at the half, against Philly we trailed 9-7, and against the Chargers we trailed 3-0. In all cases their offenses made adjustments at halftime that our Lee-less defense could not handle and our offense was unable to play from behind because we did not have an offensive game plan to counter. Clearly Elliot is a special back and could have been a difference maker that perhaps could have overcome Smith’s absence those first two losses, but we have been unable, historically, to overcome Lee’s absence. Had Lee been healthy we would have been no worse than 4-2 in those games and we would be in the catbird sat instead of staring up at it. For this very reason LB should be a strong consideration in the first round and Roquan Smith should be on the radar!

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Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense

John Williams

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Maliek Collins

For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.

Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.

He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.

During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.

Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.

With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.

Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.



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Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018

Jess Haynie

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Amari Cooper

For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote

As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.

Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!



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David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?

Sean Martin

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David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.

In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.

There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.

While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.

Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.

Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.

In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.

Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.

Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.

At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.

The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.

Tell us what you think about "David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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