All eyes were on Ezekiel Elliott throughout his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys. He has been one of the few first-year running backs to seriously challenge Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record, but unfortunately fell a little shy. But, Elliott could still join Dickerson in the record book by becoming one of the few to ever rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
To say that rushing for 2,000 yards in a single NFL season is a difficult task to accomplish is an understatement. To date, only seven running backs in the history of the league have ever accomplished this feat.
(1973) O.J. Simpson 2,003
(1984) Eric Dickerson 2,105
(1997) Barry Sanders 2,053
(1998) Terrell Davis 2,008
(2003) Jamaal Lewis 2,066
(2009) Chris Johnson 2,006
(2012) Adrian Peterson 2,097
I don't know about you, but I think that's an impressive group of running backs. All of them already have a bust in the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson of course. But, that could be just a matter of time.
Ezekiel Elliott has been pretty impressive so far in his young career, but joining the elite group of 2K rushers is a tall order to ask of him.
Ezekiel Elliott, a.k.a. Zeke, would have to put together a historic season to have a real shot at going over 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. He would have to average a minimum of 5.5 yards per carry and carry the ball an upwards of 360 times. Those of course are just ballpark numbers, but it gives you an idea of what kind of monumental season he would have to put together.
Back in 2016 for example, Elliott averaged 5.1 yards a carry and toted the rock 322 times. He ended up accumulating 1,631 rushing yards, falling a little short of Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record (1,808). Of course, those numbers could have been a little better if the Cowboys coaching staff hadn't pulled back the reins toward the end of the season to save him for the playoffs.
It's not out of the realm of possibility Zeke joins the elite group of 2K rushers, but things would probably have to fall into place perfectly. Both he and his offensive line would have to remain healthy for the entire season. He would have to break more long runs and opposing defenses would have to stop stacking the line of scrimmage as often as they do.
Unfortunately, I don't believe all of the pieces will fall into place. Teams aren't going to stop stacking the box. Zeke will continue to see eight, nine, and even 10 man fronts on a regular basis, especially if the Cowboys revamped receiving core struggles.
Luckily, that's not a bad thing. The Dallas Cowboys don't need Zeke to rush for 2,000 yards. It would be a nice accomplishment for him, but I don't know if it will make them any more successful as a team or put more W's in the win column. Another year like he had his rookie season would probably make everybody happy.
So, joining the 2,000 rushing yard club is certainly doable for Ezekiel Elliott, but I doubt that's his, or the Dallas Cowboys goal heading into the 2018 season and beyond.
Do you think Ezekiel Elliott will ever join the 2,000 yard rushing club?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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