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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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Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend

Jess Haynie

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Mike Weber

Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.

One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.

Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.

A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.

Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.

If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.

Mike Weber

Dallas Cowboys RB Mike Weber

The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.

Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.

This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.

Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.

But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.



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Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Jaylon Smith Returns Cowboys to NFC East Prominence in Win Over Bucs

The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.

Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame. 

“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith

Michael Bertsch on Twitter

2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV

Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!



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Ezekiel Elliott Snubbed from Top 25 Players Under 25 List

John Williams

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Should Cowboys Start Preparing for Life Without Ezekiel Elliott?

On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus published it's Top 25 Players Under 25, with Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch one of only three linebackers on the list. Oddly, one of the best players on the team was absent from this same list; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

The running backs they included were Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara. Pro Football Focus has been very open about their dislike of Elliott's 2018 season, ranking him 30th in the NFL according to their player grades.

Elliott has won the NFL's rushing title in two of his three seasons and likely would have won it in 2017 had he not been served with a league-mandated six-game suspension. Elliott ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the 10 games he played, which put him in 10th place in rushing in 2017. Le'Veon Bell led the NFL in rushing that season with 1,291 yards. Using some basic arithmetic, I've discovered that Elliott finished just 308 yards off the league lead in six fewer games.

https://twitter.com/PFF_Cowboys/status/1128700802422517761

Despite being the most productive back in the NFL in his first three years in the NFL, Elliott gets knocked because he sees such a high volume of carries and targets from the Dallas Cowboys offense.

On Wednesday, Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus talked about the players who just missed the cut. Here's what he had to say about Ezekiel Elliott.

"There’s no doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top players at his position, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that his production is, in large part, thanks to the offense that Dallas has built around him. Over the last three years, Elliott ranks first in rushing attempts (868), rushing yards (4048), rushing yards after contact (2567) and first down conversions (219). However, his three-year rushing grade of 80.2 ranks ninth among the 36 backs with at least 300 attempts in that span, while his 0.119 missed tackles forced per attempt ranks tied for 27th among the same group." 

Mark Chichester - Pro Football Focus

Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not the best. There can be an argument for Todd Gurley or Le'Veon Bell, and maybe even Saquon Barkley, but if you aren't including Ezekiel Elliott in the discussion, the discussion is a bit flawed.

For three years, under Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator, every team in the NFL knows that Elliott is going to get the ball and get the ball a lot. Primarily on first downs. Yet, Elliott continues to be productive and grind out his yards, even against heavily stacked fronts.

I understand the argument that Elliott wasn't very efficient with his touches in 2018, but when you are the primary focus for opposing defenses, it makes it difficult to be efficient. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamar had the benefit of being coached by Andy Reid and Sean Payton who are considered creative offensive minds. Saquon Barkley had the benefit of Odell Beckham Jr keeping safeties honest.

While the Cowboys had Amari Cooper, the passing game still doesn't get near the respect that the Cowboys run game gets from opposing defensive coordinators. With Kellen Moore on board and the talk about presenting multiple formations for opposing teams to figure out, the Cowboys offense could get more creative in 2019.

Heading into his fourth year in the NFL, it's amazing that Ezekiel Elliott apparently still has something to prove to some out there. After winning rushing titles in two of his three seasons and averaging right around 100 yards a game, Elliott still doesn't get the respect he deserves from national observers.



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