The Dallas Cowboys shutout loss at the Indianapolis Colts was historic for all the wrong reasons, the first time this team's been blanked on the scoreboard since 2003 and a deflating end to a five game winning streak. The inability for the Cowboys to score culminated with Running Back Ezekiel Elliott carrying the ball just 18 times for 87 yards.
The Cowboys have won only two games this year when Elliott has less than 20 carries, though he was much more of a receiving threat in both outcomes over the Giants at home and Eagles on the road. Against the Colts, Elliott did catch seven passes, none of which went for a score of course - coupled with his fourth down stuff from the three yard line to negate an early Cowboys scoring attempt.
The impetus on the Cowboys scoring a point in their first of three chances at locking up the NFC East hardly falls on Elliott, but this doesn't make a statistic posted by his mother on Twitter any less amazing.
Ezekiel has been playing football since 2002 (ever since he was 7). It just occurred to me that Sunday was the first game, in his entire career, that the team he's played on didn't score.
The closest the Cowboys came to scoring on Sunday (blocked Brett Maher field goal attempt aside) at the Colts was the play before Elliott was tackled for a loss on fourth down. Fullback Jamize Olawale dropped a walk-in touchdown on a well designed play, putting the play in the books as nothing more than another that Elliott nor his Quarterback Dak Prescott could control.
The duo of Prescott and Elliott had accounted for a touchdown in all of their games together in Dallas, and you have to go back to September of 2015 to find the last collegiate game Elliott didn't score in. The third week of his final season at Ohio State, Elliott's Buckeyes managed to win 20-13 over Northern Illinois behind his 108 yards on 23 attempts.
Elliott not partaking in a shutout at any point in his football career before week 15 of his third professional season shows how maddening the Cowboys ebbs and flows on this side of the ball are. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan calling the plays, the Cowboys toe the line of overusing Elliott and forgetting about him at a rate that's already added pressure to their chance at winning the NFC East.
Linehan has fairly had to shoulder much of the blame for the Cowboys abysmal performance against Matt Eberflus' Colts defense, my own take on the matter summed up here:
"The talk of the league outside of "what happened to Dallas?" this week seems to be a much more global "what is going to happen in the NFC playoffs"? The Cowboys, Linehan included, would love to have something to say about both questions, yet have more than a large enough sample size of inept offense to see how things could go horribly wrong." - Matt Eberflus Exposed Cowboys Biggest Weakness for Playoff Run (12/19).
"OC responsible for keeping an Ezekiel Elliott offense scoreless for the first time ever," is hardly the latest revision Linehan wants to make to his resume considering the uncertainty of his job status at points earlier this season. Even listing such an "accomplishment" alongside another playoff appearance should have the Cowboys searching for an upgrade at Linehan's position this offseason.
The good news for the Cowboys is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town this weekend, their last place red zone scoring defense a potential remedy for whatever it was that happened at Indianapolis. Elliott has faced the Bucs once in his career, ripping off a career-high 159 yards and - yes, a touchdown.
The Cowboys path back to proving their most recent loss is an anomaly that won't slow their drive towards the postseason feels simple. Having total confidence in the Cowboys offense after last week would be reckless, but so too is expecting Ezekiel Elliott to do anything less than assure Dallas himself they won't be shutout again while restarting this personal streak.
Add in a potential return from Right Guard Zack Martin and Left Guard Xavier Su'a-Filo against Tampa Bay, and the time is now for the Cowboys to lock up the division with a week to spare behind a hungrier-than-ever Elliott.
Where Does Dak Prescott Rank Among NFL Quarterbacks?
The quarterback position is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in the NFL. As hard as it can be for a quarterback to understand and execute an offense against a defense that is trying to keep them off balance, it can be equally difficult to try and determine where each quarterback ranks compared to his peers.
Last week, The Sporting News attempted to do just that with their 2019 Quarterback Rankings. It's a pretty good list, and I highly recommend checking it out.
This was the criteria for how Vinnie Iyer,
"These rankings are based on how each QB performed last season and the upside of how each might perform in 2019. No matter how many Super Bowl rings or MVP awards a QB has won, or the number of efficient passing seasons he has posted in the past, history is a small part of the equation. We thought about where each QB ended up last season in terms of effectiveness, production and durability, and then we thought even more about how his talent and offensive support set him up for success (or lack thereof) this season."
Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News
Dak Prescott came in at number 14 on the list, three spots behind NFC East counterpart Carson Wentz.
Here's what NFL Analyst Vinnie Iyer had to say:
"Prescott dazzled as a rookie in 2016 and slumped as a sophomore in 2017. Last season, he was closer to his rookie form in a year that largely landed between both extremes. Prescott got hot in the second half of the season once he clicked with new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, creating a trickle-down effect that should continue with more legitimate overall weapons in 2019."
Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News
While these lists are rather subjective and it can be a difficult task, I think Vinnie's pretty close on where Dak Prescott sits in the NFL at this point in his career.
It's hard to argue with his top five. Each could have an argument for being the best quarterback in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes just won the NFL MVP, Tom Brady has won all the Super Bowls, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers put up ridiculous numbers year in and year out, and Russell Wilson was just made the highest paid player in NFL history.
While I think Dak probably sits in the 9-15 range, here are the five quarterbacks ranked ahead or Prescott.
9. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
12. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
13. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
I feel there's an argument to be made that Prescott is a few spots to low.
As an avid Oklahoma Sooners homer, I find it a bit presumptuous to have Baker Mayfield as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL. Mostly because he's only played 14 games at this point in his NFL career. Mayfield had a tremendous rookie season and has given Cleveland Browns fans hope that the franchise is finally headed in the right direction. As much as I love Baker Mayfield and think he's going to be a great NFL quarterback, it's hard for me to put him in the top 10 at this point in his career.
Ben Roethlisberger is easily a top 10 quarterback. He has skins on the wall and over the last several seasons has been a prolific passer in the NFL. Some of the games he plays in the offseason talking about retirement aren't great, but it's hard to argue he hasn't had a borderline Hall of Fame career.
The most difficult argument I think comes when you compare Dak Prescott and DeShaun Watson. The two seem to be on similar career trajectories at this point.
Watson has a better passer rating, a slightly better completion percentage and has more total touchdowns per game than Dak Prescott for his career. If Watson had played as many games as Dak Prescott to this point, at his current touchdown rate, he'd have 108 total touchdowns. 23 more than Dak Prescott.
The two that I have the biggest issue with on this list are the two he gets compared to the most because they were taken first and second overall in the same draft that Dak Prescott was taken in the fourth round; Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
Dak Prescott's thrown for near as many touchdowns as Carson Wentz, who leads the three, but if you consider how many touchdowns Prescott's rushed for in his career, he sits 13 total touchdowns ahead of Wentz and 16 total touchdowns more than Jared Goff. Dak Prescott has a better career passer rating than both of those quarterbacks and is right there in yards per attempt with both guys.
Dak Prescott can claim more team success than Carson Wentz. One could argue that Jared Goff didn't play his best on the way to representing the NFC in the most recent Super Bowl. Dak Prescott has started every game of his NFL career while Carson Wentz has missed eight games due to season-ending injuries each of the last two seasons. Durability is a huge issue for Wentz at this point. I'd rather have the guy who you know will be on the field.
If I were going to rerank Dak Prescott with the five quarterbacks ranked directly ahead of him, I'd go:
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
11. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
12. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
13. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
14. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Of course, this is my attempt to be as unbiased as possible and would completely understand if you wanted to rank them differently. There's no perfect way to rank players in the NFL and I applaud the Sporting News guys for giving it this effort. I can see arguments for Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, and DeShaun Watson ahead of Dak Prescott, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.
Dak Prescott is a top 12 quarterback in the NFL and an ascending player in this league.
If you were going to rank the six quarterbacks listed above, how would you rank them? Let us know in the comment section.
Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released DT Gerald McCoy
The Dallas Cowboys have been reinforcing their defensive interior all offseason and look to be in a good position as they get ready to begin offseason training activities and minicamp. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of trading for New York Jets Defensive Tackle Leonard Williams. Another defensive tackle has now become available, long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy.
Per a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are going to release McCoy after nine seasons with the club.
BREAKING: DT Gerald McCoy has been informed by the Bucs of their plans to release him after nine seasons. The team decided not to pay him the $13-million salary he was owed for 2019.
McCoy is the definition of a cap casualty as he was set to make $13 million on the cap this year. At age 30 in 2018, McCoy still had six sacks as the Buccaneers 3-technique defensive tackle.
Throughout his career, he's been one of the more productive defensive tackles in the league. From 2012 to 2017 he was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.
Since 2012, McCoy's averaged 7.2 sacks, 36.8 total tackles, 9.85 tackles for loss, and 17.85 quarterback hits a season. Over the last three seasons, McCoy's averaged just under seven sacks a season. In 2018, he finished with 38 total pressures, which was 19th among all interior defensive linemen. Only Tyrone Crawford from the Cowboys had nearly as many total pressures on the interior with 37.
Though the Cowboys have brought in Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill to fortify a defensive interior with Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy would make an excellent addition to their rotation. Mike Fisher of 247 Sports is reporting that the Cowboys currently have "very little interest" in the defensive tackle.
That's plausible. The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of depth on the defensive line at the moment, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue a talented player such as Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been an excellent 3-tech but also has the size to contribute at 1-tech on passing downs if you need him to.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has a ton of depth and it may not make sense to bring in a guy like McCoy, but they should. Much like the trade for Robert Quinn, you're putting your eggs in the 2019 Super Bowl basket and trying to maximize the talent that you have on the roster this year. They're a team primed to make a deep run in January and McCoy can help them do that.
As in everything, it will come down to the price tag. However, given that the Dallas Cowboys currently have just under $20 million available on the 2019 salary cap, they can get a deal done with McCoy and continue working on the long-term contracts for their star core of players.
Gerald McCoy makes the defense better. He's another guy along the defensive line, in addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, that the offensive line has to think about. He makes things easier for everyone at every level of the defense and shouldn't cost a ton to sign on a one-year deal.
BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard
TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.
Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.
Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv
The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.
One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.
There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.
Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.
We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.
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