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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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BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year

Mauricio Rodriguez

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David Irving

For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.

Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.

In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.

Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.

The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.

Tell me what you think about "BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Jason Witten’s Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

Sean Martin

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Cowboys 2016 Draft Class: Who Will Be The Stand Out In 2017?
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten retired from the NFL last month, he left behind an unproven group of tight ends for the Cowboys to field as Witten moves on to the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. This is not a TE group short of potential, although that's nothing new for the laundry list of players that have failed at the position behind the Hall of Fame bound Witten.

Headlining this group of potential heirs to Witten has to be 2016 draft pick Rico Gathers. Not yet given the same opportunities that Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin are receiving through the Cowboys ongoing mini camp, Gathers has been criticized for his commitment to his team.

Looking to make the transition from the basketball court at Baylor to the football field, Gathers' journey began at Witten's soon-to-be home forever. Playing his first organized football game since middle school, Gathers and Witten were teammates in the Hall of Fame game at Canton, Ohio in 2017.

A game rarely leaving fans with a lasting memories, Gathers immediately flashed potential in the passing game, hauling in three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. Gathers would go on to spend the season on IR after a concussion suffered in practice, recovering from it in time to return but never seeing the field.

This leaves Gathers' prospects of putting it all together in year three at a difficult crossroads. It will be hard to question Gathers' commitment moving forward, as the message from his former teammate Jason Witten still lives with him.

Jason Witten's Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

If Witten truly sees a "bright future" for Rico Gathers, who Head Coach Jason Garrett says needs work in the running game, there is no reason the Cowboys can't find a role for him this season. With an entirely unproven group of wide receivers, Gathers could be the reliable mismatch for Dak Prescott to target in the middle of the field.

Prescott was the ninth worst quarterback in the league last season in red zone completion percentage, surely something the 6'6" TE Gathers could help improve.

Gathers may be a long way off from becoming Prescott's version of Witten to Tony Romo, but there is still hope for the 2016 draft pick, according to now football analyst Jason Witten.

Tell us what you think about "Jason Witten’s Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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David Irving to be Present at Dallas Cowboys Minicamp

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: El Futuro Incierto de David Irving

David Irving has been a notable name throughout the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, for both on the field and off the field headlines. First, his RFA tender had fans and analysts wondering just what the Cowboys would do with him. Many, myself included, thought placing anything lower than a first-round tender on the stud defensive tackle would mean he was collecting sacks for someone else in 2018.

Thankfully, the Dallas Cowboys' gamble paid off and they were able to save some money by only having the second-round tender applied to 2018.

Then came the accusation of domestic violence from his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, catching us off-guard just before OTAs began in May. Which was then retracted not long after the initial report.

After all of that had quieted down, most of the talk revolved around David Irving not being in shape for OTAs. Not having been around for much of the offseason work the last several weeks before OTAs would keep Irving from working out.

He's had a lot going on in his life lately away from the game of football, and understandably so. As a father to a young child, I can see how you'd get distracted from your job when family stuff comes into play that affects the well-being of your child.

On the football side of things, at least, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Today, it's being reported that David Irving will in fact be present for this week's mandatory minicamp.

Brandon George on Twitter

Also, the Cowboys expect DL David Irving to participate in the 3-day mandatory minicamp that begins today at The Star, a source said. The Cowboys could have both Irving and RG Zack Martin back on the practice field if Martin's contract extension gets finalized this morning.

You may be asking yourself, "what's the big deal? Irving isn't Aaron Donald."

Well, you're mostly right.

Perhaps next to Donald, David Irving was the most disruptive interior player in the NFL last season. David Irving had seven sacks in the eight games he played in.

Read that again. Seven sacks in eight games. That would be 14 sacks over the course of the season if that pace were to continue to play out.

Aaron Donald had 11 sacks in 2017.

Pro Football Focus rated David Irving as its third best pass rusher among interior defensive linemen.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Dominant interior defenders.

To go along with Irving's seven sacks in eight games -- every time I read that I'm floored -- he recorded six passes defended. That was good for second in the NFL at the defensive tackle position and was second on the Dallas Cowboys.

Again, in only eight games played.

Even if you were to pace out his tackle numbers over 16 games, they aren't very spectacular -- 26 solo and 18 assisted -- but he'd still finish in the top 30 among defensive tackles.

Only two other players in the NFL had seven or more sacks and six or more pass breakups; New Orleans Saints Defensive End Cameron Jordan and Cincinnati Bengals Defensive End Carlos Dunlap. Both of those guys played in all 16 games and, while I hate to keep bringing this up, Irving only played in eight.

He's an elite interior defender who has only gotten better since joining Rod Marinelli and the Dallas Cowboys.

If he's able to get his personal life in order -- and that most assuredly comes first -- he's going to be a wrecking ball for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line.

Getting Zack Martin's contract extension completed was probably the most important task of the summer, but getting David Irving back into the practice fold is a close second.

With him and DeMarcus Lawrence coming off a tremendous 2017, the sky is the limit for those two in 2018.

With all the improvement that was made on the defensive side of the ball, I can't help but think of the sign that Greg Hardy paid for several years ago.

"Sacks Comin'."



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