Who else is sick of the running backs argument?
As soon as the Dallas Cowboys decided to extend running back Ezekiel Elliott earlier this week, Twitter went crazy with instant reaction. While the majority of Cowboys Nation seemed excited to have their All Pro level talent back on the field for the season opener, the majority of outside analysts disagreed with the Cowboys' decision.
Running backs don't matter.
It's become the tagline for the analytics crowd in recent years, so much so that's its become overblown.
The numbers suggest that early down passes, not runs, are the most efficient play-calls by expected points added. They also suggest that the difference between a running back who's considered "elite" by the masses, and one that's considered replacement level, is not all that big. Not big enough to justify $50 million guaranteed, that's for sure.
But the Cowboys, and their fans, have decided that this situation is different. That, in Dallas, the running back does matter. And he matters a lot.
The Cowboys have built their offense around their running game. For years they have made the decision to run on early downs, be conservative in their third and fourth down play-calling, and invest resources in their offensive line.
Head coach Jason Garrett is a football guy at heart, and while there are a ton of smart analytically minded people in the building, time of possession and hard-nosed football has been the priority in Dallas since the 2014 season.
And when you look at the win-loss record, why shouldn't it be, right?
While it's certainly true the Cowboys are built on the back of their running game, it's not true that this all centers around their running back. Instead, the offensive line is the backbone of this football team, as has been proved year in and year out.
After extending right tackle La'el Collins earlier this week, Dallas now has long term contracts invested in four of their five starting offensive linemen. In addition, they've used a top 50 pick on their starting left guard who will almost certainly earn himself a longterm contract in the next couple years. Oh, and they used a third round pick in 2019 on guard Connor McGovern to be their insurance plan on the interior line.
The Cowboys carried 11 (!!) offensive linemen on the 53-man roster after training camp cuts, and have done all they can to make sure that Dak Prescott is protected and Ezekiel Elliott has clear running lanes. Now, I am not inferring that any old running back can do what Zeke does with this offensive line. What I am saying is that when you have so much invested in those front five, it could be a mis-allocation of resources to also guarantee a running back $50 million.
Dallas' front office has exhibited time and time again that they don't want to be up against the cap. They want flexibility year to year, as they likely should. In order to keep this flexibility, they may lose out on some of their defensive free agents - namely Maliek Collins, Anthony Brown, and Byron Jones - in order to keep their offensive core together.
They can afford to keep players like Byron Jones around with Elliott, but it's unlikely they are going to do so.
Ezekiel Elliott is valuable, though. He's valuable in the locker room as a leader on offense. He's valuable on Sundays as another weapon the defense has to account for. And, yet, analytics departments would tell you that they might be better off rolling into the future with a cheaper Tony Pollard. Because the question isn't whether or not Zeke is "good," it's whether or not Zeke being good actually makes your offense better enough to justify the guaranteed money.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys' decision makers seem to have different roster values than analytics Twitter. And, hey, they've done a really good job so far, making it easy to trust them.
If Ezekiel Elliott plays as he has and the Cowboys ride their offensive line and running game to a Super Bowl, no one will care about potential dead money, or his cap hit in 2023.
Ezekiel Elliott Quietly Having Best Start of His Career
The Dallas Cowboys and All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott were the talk of the summer when negotiations for a long term extension came to an impasse. Slick maneuvering through the media on both ends left everyone on pins and needles. Ultimately, the two parties reached an agreement just days before the season opener on a six-year 90 million dollar extension with 50 million in guarantees. With his financial security now taken care of, it was time for Elliott to get a few practices under his belt before the season kicked off against the New York Giants. Now, after two weeks of action, it's clear Elliott has knocked off the rust and is ready to have another All-Pro season.
Elliott is traditionally a slow starter and this season was no different. The Cowboys dominated the Giants 35-17 mostly due to Dak Prescott's 405 yard 4 touchdown performance that also included a perfect 158.3 passer rating. With him slinging the ball around and producing points at will it was easy for the Cowboys to stick to their plan of limiting Elliott's touches. He finished with 53 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown as he knocked the dust off the tires so to speak.
Week two saw the Cowboys hit the road in another NFC East matchup with the Washington Redskins. Elliott came into the game having rushed for more yards (484) and more touchdowns (6) against the Redskins than any other team he's faced, including two 100 yard performances. This game was a steady dose of Elliott as he methodically racked up yardage. At halftime, he had 48 yards on 11 carries as the Cowboys held a 14-7 lead.
With the score 24-14 late in the fourth quarter, Elliott capped off a 10 play 54-yard drive with a score from two yards out with just over five minutes left. After a Redskins touchdown made it 31-21 the Cowboys got the ball back with just over two minutes left. Elliott broke a 27-yard run that iced the game and put his total at 111 yards on 23 carries as the Cowboys improved to 2-0. Just the kind of performance you want to see from your star runner after a quiet first game.
In 2016, Elliott had 134 yards and 2 touchdowns in his two games. He had 112 yards and no touchdowns the first two weeks of 2017 and 147 yards and 2 touchdowns last season in the first two games. This season he has 164 yards and 2 touchdowns in two games. With all the talk about the historic start of Dak Prescott, and rightfully so, what has gotten lost is that Elliott is currently off to the best start of his career through two games.
After carefully monitoring his snaps the first two games Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore is ready to put a full workload on Elliott going forward.
"This is our third game," Moore told the Dallas Morning News. "I think he's at that point where we're pretty much playing this thing out at this point. It was good those first two weeks just to be aware of it and then also trust Zeke's response and how he feels and all those things and just balancing that stuff out."
With all the restrictions gone Elliott can get back to his normal amount of reps. This Sunday the Cowboys host the Miami Dolphins and a defense that has allowed 102 points and 391 rushing yards in two games. Another opportunity for a big performance for the All-Pro and to continue reminding the world that he's the best at his position.
Cowboys en Español: Mitos y Verdades en Dallas, Adiós Taco Charlton
El ala defensiva producto de la universidad de Michigan, Taco Charlton, fue seleccionado en la primera ronda del NFL Draft 2017 por los Dallas Cowboys para la sorpresa de muchos. Con jugadores como T.J. Watt y Kevin King en la tabla, muchos esperaban que Stephen Jones y compañía tomaran una ruta diferente. Sin embargo, Rod Marinelli logró influir la selección del equipo y Charlton recibió la llamada. Desde ese momento, se convirtió en un jugador altamente debatido entre los aficionados y analistas de Dallas.
El 2019 es la tercera temporada de Charlton en la NFL y tras estar inactivo en las primeras dos semanas, los Cowboys lo dejaron ir. El motivo por el que Taco estuvo inactivo no era su salud, sino el hecho de que los coaches no lo vieron como uno de los mejores linieros defensivos. Se ha especulado por mucho tiempo sobre la relación entre Marinelli y Charlton, después de que algunos comentarios del coach y algunos directivos nos hicieron dudar sobre su ética de trabajo y su compromiso al equipo.
Según reportes de Jane Slater, Charlton solicitó al equipo un trade hace unos meses, cosa que los Cowboys no consiguieron con ningún equipo y por tanto resultó cortando al defensivo antes de la semana 3 de la temporada. Las cosas se "calentaron" después de que Charlton publicó en redes sociales "Free me." Gran parte por su corte es el regreso del defensivo Robert Quinn, quien estuvo suspendido las primeras dos semanas.
El domingo, Charlton enfrentará a su ex-equipo vistiendo los colores de los Miami Dolphins, mientras que Quinn hace lo mismo pero vistiendo el uniforme de los Dallas Cowboys. En Cowboys en Español, le deseamos éxito a Taco Charlton en su nuevo equipo.
Mitos y Verdades
Con dos semanas de acción de los Dallas Cowboys, hemos visto y escuchado todo tipo de conclusiones. Algunas parecen ser una exageración, mientras otras tienen todo el sentido del mundo. Por eso es que hoy nos aventuramos a unas cuantas declaraciones comunes sobre el equipo y determinamos cuales son mitos y cuales son verdades...
- Ezekiel Elliott no ha tenido un impacto importante
Debido a la alta producción del juego aéreo en la ofensiva de Kellen Moore, muchos han pasado por alto el trabajo del corredor Ezekiel Elliott. Anteriormente, hemos visto un equipo de los Cowboys que se enfocaba principalmente en el juego terrestre y ahora no parece ser el caso.
Sin embargo, Elliott ha tenido un impacto importante. De hecho, después de dos juegos cuenta con el mejor inicio de su carrera. Hasta el momento ha acumulado 164 yardas en 36 acarreos. Su mejor marca en los primeros dos juegos de toda su carrera.
- Michael Gallup es cosa seria
Las expectativas eran altas para el receptor de segundo año, Michael Gallup. Se esperaba que su rol incrementara drásticamente después de un 2018 que cerró con una participación importante. En training camp fue dominante y por fin lo pudo demostrar en el emparrillado.
A pesar de que tendrá que recuperarse de lesión, Gallup ha demostrado que la emoción que lo rodea es completamente real.
- El interior de la línea defensiva podría ser un problema
Hasta el momento, una de las mayores decepciones ha sido la selección de segunda ronda de los Cowboys, Trysten Hill. El tackle defensivo de Central Florida ha estado en la lista de inactivos durante las primeras dos semanas.
Antwaun Woods sufrió una lesión contra los Washington Redskins que no parece muy seria. Sin embargo, no hemos visto mucha calidad por parte de los tackles defensivos. Hasta el momento, no hemos visto una dupla de titulares que nos hagan sentir mejor respecto la posición.
- Somos un equipo pasador
Tras dos semanas, parece que este es el caso. Habiendo dicho eso, no estaré convencido de que la ofensiva mantendrá un nivel tan agresivo en el juego aéreo hasta que vea el mismo plan de juego coontra rivales más fuertes. Kellen Moore ha hecho todo bien por ahora, pero tengo muchas ganas de verlo en un escenario con más presión.
¿Volverá en un punto a depender del juego terrestre o seguirán apostando por Dak Prescott y el juego aéreo? Ya veremos.
Veredicto: VERDAD por ahora, por definir...
NFC East Weekly: Giants Change QBs, Eagles Take First Loss
While we always have plenty to talk about when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, it's never a bad idea to look around our division and see what's happening with the rivals. This is the first is a new weekly feature on Inside The Star where we'll talk about the major happenings in the NFC East, and especially what they mean for the good guys.
Before we get into the headlines, though, here's a quick glace at the current standings for the division after Week 2 of the 2019 season:
- Dallas Cowboys 2-0 (2-0 vs division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 1-1 (1-0 vs division)
- New York Giants 0-2 (0-1 vs division)
- Washington Redskins 0-2 (0-2 vs division)
The Cowboys have started off the season in grand fashion, picking up two division wins against the Giants and Redskins. It's an incredible foundation from which to continue through 2019, and one that they will hopefully build on this week against the tanking Miami Dolphins.
Those division wins could be crucial this year if the Eagles live up to expectations. Despite the loss last week in Atlanta, Philly should still be right there in the end and the NFC East crown may come down that tie-breaking record against division opponents.
If these two weeks have shown us anything, it's that all projections of 2019 being a two-horse race between Dallas and Philadelphia were spot on. New York is as bad as most thought they'd be, and any thoughts of Washington being a plucky underdog are about gone now.
In fact, it only took two weeks for the Giants to throw in the towel and name rookie Daniel Jones their starting quarterback.
End of the Eli Era
Remember this offseason when Giants' General Manager Dave Gettleman said that Eli Manning "had plenty left" going into 2019? Apparently it ran out fast, and it only took two losses for New York to promote Daniel Jones and effectively end Manning's run with the Giants. He had been the full-time starter since 2005.
Assuming that an injury or a total management meltdown don't lead to Eli being renamed as the starter, Jones will get six games under his belt before the rematch with the Cowboys in Week 9. The rookie gets a few soft opponents in Tampa Bay and Washington to start his career, but then it toughens up quickly with Minnesota and New England in Weeks 5 and 6.
Taking my Cowboys glasses off for a second, I actually am rooting for this kid. Daniel Jones was one the most maligned draft picks I've ever seen, basically declared a bust before he even had time to hug the commissioner on stage. On a purely human level, I'd like to see him prove people wrong.
We'll have plenty of time to look at Jones in the weeks and years to come. But before we change topics, I wanted to quickly reflect on the end of the Eli Era.
It was hard as a Dallas fan to watch Manning's success with two Super Bowl wins. Other than physical durability, there was nothing about Eli's game that made you think he was better than our own Tony Romo.
But happenstance is what makes the NFL work so well. It's why Week 1 in the NFL means more than the middle rounds of the NBA Playoffs; unpredictable outcomes make for greatest excitement and intrigue. The best teams and players don't always win, because single-elimination games and even single plays within can change history.
The bottom line is that "ifs" don't make legacies or Hall of Fame resumes. Like Batman said to Rachel Dawes, "it's what I do that defines me." Eli Manning won two championships against the greatest coach & QB combo of the last two decades. He kept his team relevant in the most competitive division in football more years than not.
If he doesn't make it into Canton then I won't think it's a tragedy. But if it does, it's absolutely deserved.
Eagles Lose 1st of 2019
Philadelphia fell behind a little in the race with Dallas by dropping their first game of the season, losing on the road against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. A late touchdown by Julio Jones on 4th-down stole the game away from the Eagles.
All losses hurt in the NFL but this one wasn't too damaging. The record against NFC opponents is more relevant to Wild Card races than divisions crowns.
But for two weeks at least, the Cowboys have looked like the better team. They beat the Redskins by a wider margin on Sunday than the Eagles did, and that was even with the game being in Washington.
This week could allow the divide to increase. The Eagles will host the Detroit Lions, who have yet to lose a game this year (they finished Week 1 with a tie) while Dallas gets the league's worst team in Miami.
Also concerning coming out of the loss in Atlanta was that Carson Wentz had to leave the game, albeit briefly, after the NFL's medical spotter called for him to be examined for a concussion. Wentz has since stated that he was fine and the exam was unnecessary.
Even if the concussion exam was overzealous, the fact remains that Wentz was taking some big hits throughout that game. Given his history, one has to wonder if he can make it through the season without some better protection or more efforts to avoid contact.
Until he proves otherwise, Carson is going to be seen as injury prone. It's a fear that Eagles fans keep deep down, in places they don't like to talk about at parties or on Twitter, but it's there.
But if Philly slips up again this week against the Lions, especially with Dallas likely improving to 3-0, then a much more present and potent fear could start to take hold.
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