Writer: Caleb Akpan
Source: Getty Images
You know the movie or cheesy sitcom where the family gets together for holidays and everything goes wrong, but at the end of the day they all still love each other and it’s kind of the best holiday ever for them (as much as it could be, in the cheesiest way possible)? That’s oddly kind of like the Cowboys off-season, every. single. year. Something (or many things) goes terribly wrong, but at the end of the day, that problem finds a weird solution and everything works out okay (kind of, sometimes). In the 90s, Emmitt Smith refused to show up to training camp, and later the regular season, until he got paid more impressively for his performance. Eventually, Jerry Jones pulled out his likely giant wallet, payed Smith, and the Cowboys won the Super Bowl with their star back on the field. Just last year, Tony Romo (unsurprisingly) got hurt, Dak Prescott took over, and, well if you’ve been paying attention to the NFL in the past twelve months, everything is okay now. So, what happened this year? Well, let’s see:
- – Lucky Whitehead’s dog was kidnapped by rappers and held for ransom (seriously)
- – Dak Prescott was accused of sending out fake autograph signatures
- – Cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested
- – Lucky Whitehead was arrested too, or so it was thought, he really wasn’t, but was released anyways (for “unrelated reasons”)
- – Tyrone Crawford got carted off the field in training camp.
And now, early Friday morning, the bomb got dropped. Star second year running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games in relation to a 13-month investigation on domestic violence allegations. Elliot plans on appealing the ban with the league, but it seems as if that will only at best reduce the suspension by a game or two. With his 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns production rate potentially out the door for almost half the season, the Cowboys are screwed, right? Not so fast. Here’s a couple of reasons why, like many times before, the Cowboys might reverse a bad off-season into some worthwhile:
- Their Veteran Backup Running Backs
There’s having a backup plan, and then there’s having two backup plans. The Cowboys had not only Darren McFadden in hand for a situation like this, but also former Redskin, Alfred Morris, who both seem able to step in and provide with Elliot potentially away. McFadden was the primary RB2 last year, and while he only rushed for 87 yards, in the year prior, McFadden replaced DeMarco Murray and totaled 1,089 yards on the ground (while only starting 10 of 16 games). If McFadden can reproduce that year and Morris can contribute some of what he did with the Redskins in the same year (751 rush yards), the Cowboys could have the answers to their problem.
- Dak Prescott seems set to improve
It would probably shock fans and critics alike if Dak Prescott didn’t improve on a rookie campaign no one saw coming. The man born Rayne Dakota Prescott threw for twenty-five touchdowns and just four interceptions on a 67.8% completion rate in first pro season. The Cowboys went 13-3, won the NFC East…..I won’t get into the rest. Despite how the season ended, Prescott consistently performed under pressure, and with his offensive running mate potentially gone, the pressure’s never been higher. Defenses will be scheming even harder for him now, but Prescott seems like a student of the game who has been studying them even harder over the summer. Take the bet on Prescott upping his numbers in year two and alleviating some stress on the rush game.
- The Cowboys’ Offensive Line is Elite
It’s no secret the Cowboys’ offensive line is good…..really good. So good, a lot of critics (some would call them haters), said they were a large part of why Elliot and Prescott performed so strongly as rookies. Give those two credit, but the critics/haters weren’t entirely wrong. The Cowboys offensive line is known for making quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs play even stronger, and with or without Elliot, that shouldn’t change in the 2017 season. Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and the rest of the line will open up the holes and opportunities no matter who is behind the line, we’ll see if the back filling in for Elliot will be able to take advantage of that as well as Zeke did.
Obviously the suspension isn’t a good thing. Losing a player of Ezekiel Elliott’s caliber will hurt, but the Cowboys can make the best of it with the tools they have. The season might not end as well as the 1993 (Emmitt Smith holdout) season, but it seems as if the potential is there. The team just needs to hold on and play to their strengths, of which they have many, until Elliot’s situation is resolved.