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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

1 Comment

  1. Randy Martin

    December 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    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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Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.

David Moore on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw

Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.

The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.

The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.

But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.

Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.

It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.

Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.



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BREAKING: WR Terrance Williams Gets Dropped by Dallas Cowboys

Jess Haynie

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Takeaway Tuesday: What We Learned From Cowboys Loss To Packers
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

The Dallas Cowboys have ended their six-year relationship with Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. According to multiple sources, they have declined a team option on Williams' contract and he will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

The move will reportedly save the Cowboys $2.25 million in salary space this year.

Williams was the team's third-round pick in 2013 and started 68 of the 83 games he played in. He developed into a solid number-two receiver by the end of his rookie deal in 2016 and was given a new four-year contract that offseason.

David Moore on Twitter

Terrance Williams career w/ the Cowboys is done. Sources say the club has declined the WR's option for 2019, making him a free agent. The move is no surprise. He caught just 2 passes for 18 yards last season. His departure frees up $2.25 million on the cap.

After another decent year in 2017, things took a bad turn for Terrance last season. It started with an offseason arrest for public intoxication that eventually led to a three-game suspension, although Williams served that while on injured reserve.

The Cowboys already appeared to be giving Williams' spot away when they made several offseason acquisitions at WR; Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin all were brought in even before Terrance's arrest.

While Williams did start in two of Dallas' first three games in 2018, he only had three passes his thrown his way. The team finally put him on IR due to ongoing complications with a surgically-repaired foot.

While it didn't end well, Terrance Williams' time in Dallas was ultimately a solid return for a third-round pick. He made a few big plays and was a proficient run-blocker, good enough to start in almost 75% of the team's games since he was drafted.

The Cowboys now hope that another third-round pick, Michael Gallup in 2018, will do bigger and better things.



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A Lot Had to Happen for Amari Cooper to Join the Cowboys

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper was a game changing player from the moment he showed up at The Star in Frisco, Texas. In the first game against the Tennessee Titans, you could just tell that this was a different kind of player. The Cowboys hadn't had a wide receiver with his mixture of size and skill.

Cooper to me showed off the brilliant route running of Cole Beasley, in a body similar to Dez Bryant. Oh, and with 4.4 speed.

Electric.

But Amari Cooper's presence with the Dallas Cowboys may not have happened in 2018 if any one of a number of dominoes didn't fall during the 2018 offseason and regular season.

Shunned by Sammy

Early in the free agency period, it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys had brought in Sammy Watkins and made him a lucrative offer that would have paid him around $16 million per year, but as Patrik Walker from 247 Sports discussed, he ultimately signed with the Kansas City Chiefs for more guaranteed money.

I recall first the feeling of dread when I heard about the pursuit of Sammy Watkins, immediately followed by relief when I saw that he signed with the Chiefs. I was in the midst of a government mandated internet blackout.

Don't get me wrong, Sammy Watkins is a fine player, but he isn't a $16 million per year player. Aside from his athleticism and size he doesn't really bring much to the table. He was pretty much a younger, and similarly injury prone -- at their respective points in their careers -- as Dez Bryant.

In 2018, Watkins only played in 10 games for the Chiefs and barely passed the 500 yard mark while catching only three touchdowns. Now, he's not the top priority in the Chiefs passing game, but he's not a player that can be relied upon to lead an offense.

Had the Cowboys signed Watkins last offseason, it's highly unlikely that they would have traded a 2019 first round draft pick to add another wide receiver in Amari Cooper.

Dez Bryant Goes Bye-Bye

The next thing that happened that may not have, was the release of long-time Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant. Dez Bryant had been with the team since 2010, when the team made him their first round pick that season. After post really good numbers from 2012-2014, Dez had a drop off in production, mostly due to injuries in the 2015-2017 seasons.

Dez Bryant, a fan favorite, was a player that relied upon his superior athletic ability, physicality, toughness, and ability to get passes in the air that made him special. Injuries to his legs and feet started to rob him of his athletic ability. Combine that with the fact that he and Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott could never really get on the same page when it came to fade routes, traditional or of the back shoulder variety.

Had the Cowboys not made the decision to move on from Bryant, the Cowboys offense would have probably been better the first seven games of the season. They may not have necessitated allocating a first round pick to acquire Cooper and it's possible he gets traded somewhere else or stays in Oakland altogether.

Poor Starts to the Season

The Oakland Raiders went into the 2018 season having made a lot of noise by signing Jon Gruden out of the broadcast booth and trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. After a 1-5 start to their season, the fire sale continued as they put Amari Cooper on the trade block.

The Dallas Cowboys started the season 3-4, but looked much worse on offense than what we could have anticipated. We knew they would take a bit of a step back in the passing game as they were trying to work in new faces, but it was bad for the first seven, and really eight weeks of the season.

The Cowboys went into the season with a plan to use their wide receiver group as a committee to try and fill their needs with several players of varying skill sets. Sounds good in theory, but in practice it was a debacle. Receivers not named Cole Beasley, struggled to get open and the offense was listless through the first two months of the season.

Had either team been better than they were to start the season, the chance of a trade taking place would have been small. Teams like to think they can get by with what they have. Had the Cowboys been 4-3 instead of 3-4, they may have thought they could get by with Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Michael Gallup as their lead receivers.

Trade Compensation

It was rumored that prior to the Dallas Cowboys sending their 2019 first round pick to the Oakland Raiders that the Philadelphia Eagles offered a second. The Raiders, who were looking to stock pile picks to rebuild, held out for the first they desired for their former 2x Pro Bowler.

Had the Raiders took the Eagles offer as the best offer on the table at the time, the Cowboys would have missed out on Cooper and likely missed out on the division and the playoffs in 2018. On the flip side, we know how much the Cowboys value their draft picks. We've seen them pass on game changing player who would have cost much less because they value their draft picks and believe in their ability to find difference makers in any round.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys were really fortunate to end up with Amari Cooper. If any of the above things goes differently, it's extremely unlikely that he's wearing a Cowboys uniform in 2018 at all. Now, coming off a 1,000 yard season -- in only 15 games -- and a Pro Bowl appearance, Cooper is set to get paid some big money by the Dallas Cowboys front office. As they get ready to pay Cooper upwards of $16 million a year or more, they should have only one thought on their mind for the good fortune that brought Cooper to Dallas;

Thankfulness. 



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