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What Workload is Ezekiel Elliott Prepared for in 2018?

Sean Martin

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What Workload is Ezekiel Elliott Prepared for in 2018? 1

The calling card for the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2018 - amidst all of the changes this unit has gone through - will be the same as it was the last time the Cowboys reached the playoffs. Winning 19 of 25 games that both Quarterback Dak Prescott and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott have played in, Elliott's return for a full season warrants plenty of excitement.

It took the loss of not only Elliott but Left Tackle Tyron Smith last season for Prescott to regress in his second season, leading to the worst win total of his young career at 9-7. Ever since Dak took the starting job in 2016, the Cowboys have done nothing but instill confidence in their quarterback of the future, expecting Elliott to be reliably alongside him at all times.

Leading the league in rushing with 1,631 yards on 322 carries as the fourth overall pick two seasons ago, Zeke Elliott will be looking to remind everyone how dominant of a back he truly is. Prior to serving his six game suspension, Elliott was averaging 24 carries a game (up from 21.5 in 2016) with 783 yards to show for it on the ground.

While his quarterback will be most affected by the turnover the Cowboys are experiencing at wide receiver, Elliott is joined by Tavon Austin and potentially Bo Scarbrough in a new-look RBs room as well. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and the Cowboys are hopeful that their newfound versatility on offense will allow them to be less predictable.

Ezekiel Elliott's Return To Cowboys Mired In Misplaced Controversy

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

This is what also makes Ezekiel Elliott such a special player. It is expected that he will lead the way for the Cowboys offense, and is still able to control a game behind Dallas' star-studded line. The Cowboys absolutely can't lose sight of what a motivated Elliott can do in 2018.

If using the 24 attempts per game figure from above through a full 16 game schedule, Elliott would tote the rock 360 times. This number would have led the league by 39 carries in 2017, with Le'Veon Bell going for 321 attempts.

Exactly what constitutes an "attempt" in the Cowboys diverse offense has been a highly debated topic as of late, based on Stephen Jones' comments on another RBs usage - Tavon Austin. Acquired from the Rams during the draft, the Cowboys view Austin as a running back that will reportedly get up to a dozen such "attempts" per game this season.

Never carrying the ball more than 10 times in a game over his five years in the league, Austin's chances to use his speed will likely come in ways that Elliott is not as adept at. With one roster spot, the Cowboys have a player to handle jet sweeps, C.O.P back touches, receptions, and punt returns in Austin.

What Workload is Ezekiel Elliott Prepared for in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys RB Tavon Austin

It's very possible we see both Elliott and Austin on the field together in select packages for the Cowboys this season. Where Austin can come off the field though, Elliott can always be trusted as a dominant blocker and underused receiver.

I have my own doubts about Zeke's role as a pass catcher expanding in 2018, as the Cowboys will also have to justify keeping Rod Smith as another backup RB - outside of his special teams contributions. Even new Fullback Jamize Olawale has shown the ability to catch the ball comfortably out of the backfield.

This is all the more reason to prepare for Elliott to absolutely hammer defenses on the ground.

The Cowboys are prepared arguably better than ever to control games with their rushing attack, using this year's 50th overall pick on Left Guard Connor Williams. Watching this team adapt on offense each week while still relying on a bell cow runner is going to make Dak Prescott's third-year a fascinating one.

This is an offense that should absolutely be good enough to get the Cowboys back into playoff contention. It always has been when Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are on the field. Scott Linehan may have a lot more to worry about this year around these cornerstones, along with the pressure to keep his job long-term, but it should be easy for him to call his best player's number early and often in 2018.

Ezekiel Elliott himself will see to it.

Tell us what you think about "What Workload is Ezekiel Elliott Prepared for in 2018?" 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
  • John Lindauer

    If Sean Lee had been healthy in both the RAMS and the PACKERS games… Dallas would be 11-5.
    If Tyron Smith had been health during Zeke Elliot’s suspension… Dallas would be 12-4.
    If Jonathan Cooper had started the season at LG (instead of Chaz Green)… who knows what would’ve happened in Denver…

    They’ve fixed a lot of that stuff this year by adding quality depth at LB and OL.
    Projecting the future based on 2017 is rrrrridiculous.

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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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