The other day I turned on some of Ezekiel Elliott’s college tape just for fun. I was at work thinking about just how talented he was, and got the itch to watch him wreck. Play after play, it’s amazing to me how well he does everything.
When he runs, he runs with purpose and direction. He makes guys miss in the open field, can lower his shoulder and bulldoze his way to a first down, or can bounce an outside run to the sideline, gain the edge, and explode down the field.
When he catches, his hands are soft and natural. In my opinion, he could certainly be a serviceable slot receiver in this league. He sees the ball into his soft hands and makes routine catches look effortless.
We know all of this. If he didn’t do all these things that well, he wouldn’t have been the fourth overall pick.
Now, I have a question for you. I’m going to ask it and I don’t want you to immediately close this window or press the back button in your browser. I have reasons for my madness which I will outline for you once you get over the shock of what you’re about to read.
Would you play Zeke at fullback?
Ian, why on Earth would you ask that? This guy is electric with the ball in his hands. I absolutely agree. So to that I’ll ask you this: does the fullback have to block on every play?
Now, let’s pause right there. Potentially the best trait that Zeke possesses is his grit. This is a kid who will absolutely hammer you as a blocker. He has no problem sticking his shoulder into your gut on any play, on any down. He’s blocked on end-arounds, quarterback draws, and just simply on shotgun throws.
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Side note, if you haven’t already, read Marcus Mosher’s scouting report on Zeke Elliott here. Trust me, it’s well worth the read. Spoiler alert: he talks about how great Zeke’s blocking abilities are.
So, should he be called on to block for one of our other talented running backs, I have zero doubt that he would open a nice hole for someone to burst through. Having said that, as we agreed upon earlier in this post, this is a guy you want with the ball in his hands.
Now, picture this. Your Dallas offense breaks huddle and out comes Ezekiel Elliott to Tony Romo’s right, and Alfred Morris to his left. You have Dez Bryant & Terrance Williams on the field as well. You’re the MIKE linebacker for the Eagles and you see Witten go put his hand down next to Doug Free on the right side. Zeke lines up as the fullback in the I-formation, with Morris behind him.
What do you do? The ball could be handed off to either of the running backs without a problem. If you stack the box with 8-9 guys, Romo checks to a quick pass to one of his receiving threats. If you leave 6-7 guys in the box, either running back is capable of making a solid zone read and picking up 4-5 yards on any play.
What else can you do?
Can you imagine the play action possibilities? You could fake the hand-off to Zeke and pitch it to Morris. OR, you could do it the other way around. Hell, you could do a double play action, have the linebackers bite on either of the run plays, and get them seriously out of position in their coverages.
The middle of the field could conceivably be completely wide open depending on the awareness of the linebackers and safeties.
You can also check to a fullback screen to any side of the field. Just have your quarterback take a seven step drop, and lay a pretty ball up to #21 and let him do his thing. What about checking out of the I-formation into a shotgun play? Now you have the ability to send Zeke out wide to the slot, and have Alfred Morris, a solid zone runner in his own right, as your sole running back.
The possibilities are endless, and that’s what this coaching staff fell in love with on April 28th. Not only does Zeke allow this offense to go back to what it does best, but he allows Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and our entire offensive staff to be creative and innovative.
Before being closed minded about this, ask yourself what the Ole Miss coaching staff thought when the first guy proposed a touchdown throw to Laremy Tunsil, or what New England's meeting room sounded like when their head coach thought up a formation with only four offensive lineman. Innovation doesn't always work, just ask Indianapolis and their special teams coordinator, but often times it opens up new doors.
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So, having said all of this, would you consider playing Ezekiel Elliott at fullback?
Is 2019 Wide Receiver Group Best Dak Prescott Has Worked With?
Dak Prescott will be leading the Dallas Cowboys offense for the fourth consecutive year in what has been a very unlikely career. In three seasons, he's led the Cowboys to two NFC East titles and one playoff win. He's done so with quality offenses, starting by a strong offensive line and an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliott. During his career in Dallas he's had some solid receivers, but he hasn't played with a group as strong as the one he'll have in the upcoming 2019 season.
This year's starters will be headlined by Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. Although there's many other intriguing players to watch at the position, those three are the presumed starting three.
Despite the big debate among fans and analysts, Prescott has been able to win games for this football team. Perhaps his worst came at the beginning of last season, when the team's plan of not having a WR1 backfired terribly.
In the first seven weeks of the 2018 season, Dak averaged only 202 yards per game. In that span he threw for less than 200 yards in four games. Once the team traded for Cooper, that average rose all the way up to 274 yards per game. He threw for less than 200 yards in only one occasion since then.
Michael Gallup is poised for a breakout season after a rookie season in which he improved every week. The Cowboys' 2018 third-round pick didn't get as much playing time at the beginning of the season as he fought for snaps with Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin among others. In the postseason, Gallup caught six passes for 119 yards. He still has a long way to go, but the talent is clearly there.
As for Randall Cobb, many fans have doubts. He's coming in to replace Cole Beasley, who was such an effective slot wide receiver. Cobb's style will likely be different, and although he might not be as good at shaking defenders off as ol' #11, he'll be more of a downfield threat than Beasley.
Comparing this starting group to the ones from prior years, it really seems like the best Dak Prescott has worked with. During his first couple of years in the league, Dak played with a Dez Bryant that (like it or not) wasn't anywhere close to his peak. 2016-2017 Dez wasn't on last year's Amari Cooper's level. Williams had his moments, but wasn't consistent and was well-known as a body-catcher.
This year's group has its question marks, that's for sure. Randall Cobb hasn't played a full season since 2015 due to injuries and Michael Gallup doesn't have a ton of experience and is yet to breakout. Even still, it seems like Prescott will have a great group of pass-catchers to help him lead the Cowboys to another NFC East title. It'll be an interesting fourth year for the young Cowboys quarterback. It's definitely good to see he'll have help.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Offensive Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys appear to be bringing back the same key trip of players at offensive tackle from last year. But with talk that 2019 could be La'el Collins' last season in Dallas, will we see signs that the Cowboys are preparing for future changes in how they handle the position in this year's training camp?
With Tyron Smith as an All-Pro fixture at left tackle, and Cameron Fleming re-signed this offseason to be the swing tackle, the intrigue swirls around Collins and his impending free agency in 2020. If the Cowboys have no intention of paying La'el what he can command on the open market, what might they do now to lay the groundwork for Collins' exit?
Here's a quick look at the projected OT depth chart for 2019 camp:
- Tyron Smith, La'el Collins
- Cam Fleming, Jake Campos
- Mitch Hyatt, Derrick Puni, Brandon Knight
As was just said, the returning top three are locked in to those spots. Campos is a carryover from last year's practice squad, so that experience gives him a potential edge over the three undrafted rookies.
Back to the top, though, and this situation with La'el Collins. If Dallas had Collins locked up for years to come, they would likely only keep the two starters and Fleming as a backup. A fourth OT is unlikely to be active on game days, and they have Guard Connor Williams' college experience as a tackle in case of an emergency.
If the Cowboys are truly thinking that La'el won't be back in 2020, perhaps they use a roster spot now to hang on to a player who they value for depth next year.
This is where undrafted rookie Mitch Hyatt becomes an intriguing figure in this 2019 camp. He comes from a championship college program at Clemson and was projected as a late-round pick this year. Dallas made him a priority free agent signing after the draft.
Of course, Campos, Knight, or Puni have the potential to make some noise as well. But Hyatt would seem to have the most upside of the group, and Dallas might be willing to consider him as a 2020 swing tackle option if he can hit the ground running in camp this year.
Cam Fleming is also going to need to have a strong camp to help the Cowboys' in their strategy. Letting Collins go would be predicated on their comfort level with Fleming as the right tackle next year. If he struggles now, then doesn't get much playing time in the regular season, that would likely shake their confidence.
The final result of all this talk could be that La'el Collins and Dallas actually do figure out a way to continue their relationship. But when the Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of this last draft it felt like a future-pointed move, with Collins' projected departure the likely impetus for the investment.
What we may wind up seeing is McGovern taking over at left guard and allowing Connor Williams to replace Collins at tackle. But that's a discussion better saved for next offseason.
You can read more about La'el Collins impending free agency in this recent article by our own Kevin Brady. A few weeks back, I also discussed the idea that Dallas should trade Collins now rather than lose him as a free agent next year.
For now, the offensive tackles in 2019 should have continuity and stability. But if we really pay attention in this training camp and preseason, we may see signs of what the Cowboys are planning to do at the position in the coming years.
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Randall Cobb Will Be a Different Slot WR for Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys signing Randall Cobb might just be the most underrated move of their offseason. For less than five million dollars, they got an experienced wide receiver who is only 28 years old. The former Green Bay Packer has had a solid career wearing green and yellow and now gets the chance to play with the Cowboys' colors. But what can we expect from the veteran wideout?
There are some players who are absolute locks to make the 53-man roster and Cobb is one of them. That much is clear. On the depth chart, he probably sits behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, who will likely be the number one and number two receivers, respectively.
With Cole Beasley departing to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, Cobb is expected to take his place as the offense's starting slot receiver. Cowboys Nation knows very well just how good Beasley was at playing in the slot. His ability to shake defenders off was really impressive and his hands were reliable. However, we might see something different from Cobb.
Yes, it all points toward him playing the same position, but don't expect him to be a Beasley 2.0. This is of course, not a bad thing. Something fans consistently complained about Scott Linehan's offense were the short routes receivers had to run. In Cobb's short time with the Cowboys, we're seeing deeper routes even out of the slot position.
Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com wrote: "the ball to Cobb even playing out of the slot is further down the field. We hadn’t seen that from Cole Beasley and visually it looks different."
This should be exciting for Cowboys fans, specially considering all the positive reviews on new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. What we see from Randall Cobb in 2019 could be very different from what we had seen from Beasley in prior years.
It's also worth mentioning that word is Cobb has quickly developed an important chemistry with his new quarterback, Dak Prescott. Beasley was very important in Prescott's rookie season, when he averaged 52.1 yards per game and accounted for five touchdowns.
While Beasley was an important receiver for Cowboys, he wasn't really known as a team leader. Cowboys reporter Lindsay Cash Draper wrote about Cobb's leadership skills will carry on to the team whether he's doing it intentionally or not. It's always good to have such presences out there on the training field to spark the team.
Randall Cobb won't be this team's #1 guy or anything like that, but he will surely contribute every week. When we look back to this offseason, I believe this signing will look like a great move by the Cowboys' front office.
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