Writer: Jameson White
On October 12, 2017, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had his suspension upheld, and effective immediately, will be unable to play until Dallas’ tilt against Washington on November 30th.
The Cowboys’ season has not gone as expected through the first five weeks, however Zeke will now miss some crucial games against the Redskins, Chiefs, Falcons, and Eagles. Dallas may not have been able to win some of these games with Elliott, but now that he is out indefinitely, the team’s chances have certainly taken a hit. Here is how this suspension affects the Cowboys moving forward:
Dallas must now lean almost exclusively on the offensive line.
This second coming of the vaunted “Great Wall of Dallas” has been one of the most dominant units in the NFL the last few seasons, with three All-Pro players in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, and right guard Zack Martin. This past offseason, right tackle, Doug Free, retired and left guard Ronald Leary departed for Denver. In 2016, there were times when lanes parted like the Red Sea from the line’s blocking, paving the way for Elliott to lead the league in rushing as a rookie. In 2017, it appears this offense has taken a step back, partly due to these departures on the offensive line. With a new left guard, Chaz Green, and converted right tackle, La’El Collins, there have been plenty of struggles in both run blocking and pass protection. Elliott may not seem to have had many big games this year, but he has the type of talent that lets him gain 4 or 5 yards on plays where he should have gained 1 or 2. If the Cowboy’s want any shot of winning without Elliott, they must depend on their big guys up front to mesh quickly and return to their dominant form.
Without his backfield-mate in Elliott, more pressure will be placed upon Dak’s shoulders, as if there was not already enough. He is without a doubt the single most important player on this offense now. If any type of winning is going to happen in these next six games, it will have to be from excellent play at the quarterback position. Even though the Cowboy’s have veterans Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden to tote the rock, the team will surely be passing the ball more than they have been; it is up to Prescott to handle this pressure.
Dez Bryant will likely see more double and triple teams.
Dez Bryant has seemed to have a down-year this season in terms of production, but that does not mean he does not still possess the ability to single handedly take over games. If a team is not careful, he has the type of talent to put up a 100-plus yard, multi-touchdown game. Without teams having to really focus on the running game, they can turn more of their attention to Dez and making his life on the outside miserable. Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant have been trying to spark a chemistry all season long, yet it has not seemed to really click yet. Without Elliott, this chemistry will likely not start to happen.
The team as a whole must change their gameplans.
When Dallas first drafted Elliott, the plan was to run the ball and control the clock to where the talent-lacking defense did not have to spend much time on the field. This allowed for the talent they did have on the defensive side of the ball to stay off of the field and give a maximal effort in the time they were to be on it. When the Cowboys are forced to start throwing the ball more, their defense will also be forced to be on the field more as well. This is a huge area of concern for the team, as they already are losing players to injury on that side of the ball.
There is no guarantee on how Dallas will fare in these next six games without their star running back. They will more than likely lose at least a couple of games that they could have won with him on the field. Maybe this will light a fire under Elliott, and it is almost certain that once he returns we will all see a side of Elliott that helped him lead the league in rushing his rookie year. As for now, Dallas fans can only hope the season is not lost by the time he joins the team again.