The NFL slapped a hefty six game suspension on Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott today. According to the NFL, Elliott violated the NFL’s personal-conduct policy. This suspension comes after more than a year of investigation by the NFL. Six games is more than any of us suspected Elliott to be unavailable. I had heard a lot of talk about anywhere from 0-4 games, and Jerry Jones said he didn’t expect any suspension at all. Elliott now has three days to appeal the suspension, and all indications are that he will appeal. I personally think that the suspension will be reduced, but to how many games I’m not sure.
As soon as the news came out, I had some of my Dallas Cowboys friends texting me about how awful this is and how much it will hurt the offense. As a Cowboys fan myself, I was disappointed to hear this, but I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as everyone thinks it is. Yes, it will hurt the offense not having Zeke, but there’s still reason for hope, and his name is Dak Prescott.
A lot of people knock Prescott because they say that his success came because of Elliott’s ability to run the ball. That may be partly true, but Prescott has become more and more of a leader as time has gone on. I want to take you back to the playoff loss against the Packers last season. I know you don’t want to talk about it Cowboys fans, I don’t either, but just bare with me for a moment.
Even though they lost to the Packers, Dak Prescott proved to me that he could lead this Dallas Cowboys team in any situation. Going into the fourth quarter of that game, the Cowboys were down 28-13. Aaron Rodgers had been lighting up the Cowboys defense all game long. Crushing blow after crushing blow. The Cowboys offense had played terribly up to that point, but what did Dak Prescott do? Did he say it was over? No. He put the team on his back. He made it his responsibility to lead their team till the very end.
Prescott was remarkable for the rest of the game. He drove the Cowboys down the field for two touchdowns, and then again for a field goal to tie the game. He did everything he possibly could do to get his team a win. He did enough, but then Aaron Rodgers took the field one last time.
The Cowboys faced a huge amount of adversity in that playoff game. When everyone counted them out, Dak Prescott gave everyone hope again. He led his team when they faced adversity then, and I have no doubt that he’s going to lead his team when they’re facing adversity now.
Weapons still available
Zeke isn’t the only weapon Dak Prescott has available to him. He’s got plenty of other weapons at his disposal. Let’s look at some of his best weapons.
The Offensive Line
This is Dak Prescott’s greatest weapon. This offensive line has been one of the best in the league over the past few years. There have been some changes on the line this offseason, but I don’t think the Cowboys have any reason to worry. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin are some of the best at their positions. All three of them are All-Pro offensive linemen. La’el Collins is now playing right tackle. He’s not on the same level as the Smith, Frederick, and Martin, but his potential is there. The left guard spot is up for grabs, but whoever takes it doesn’t have to be great. All the have to do is be average. With this offensive line, Prescott will have the time he needs to make plays from the pocket.
The offensive line will also help the running game stay relevant. Just because Zeke won’t be there, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to run the football. Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris are two running backs who have had good seasons in the past. They can make plays behind this line. Running back Rod Smith has looked good so far in camp and the preseason. Although these guys may not make Zeke like plays, they’re all capable of helping this offense function until his return.
When healthy, Dez Bryant is one of the best WR’s in the NFL. Toward the beginning of last season, Bryant was hurt. It took him a little while to fully return to form after returning from injury, but when he did, he was the big play threat we’re used to seeing. The last time Bryant was healthy for a full season, he led the league in TD catches. Bryant is healthy again, and I expect him to have a big year.
Dez Bryant has had a full offseason to work with his young QB. They’ve had plenty of time to build chemistry and learn how to be one of the best passing combo’s in the league. With a healthy Dez Bryant, the passing game will be opened up for Prescott’s other receivers.
Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer
Cole Beasley led the Cowboys in receiving yards last season. He’s a small, quick receiver who uses his speed and agility to get open. The Cowboys drafted a Cole Beasley clone in Ryan Switzer this offseason, giving them two guys who can dominate from the slot. We’re not sure how the Cowboys will use both of them yet, but I imagine they’re going to get creative.
We’ve seen defensive backs struggle to cover Beasley many times, and now they’ll have to worry about covering Switzer too. Switzer is an unproven player in the NFL, but the way he plays looks like it will translate very well to the NFL game. He had over 1,000 receiving yards last season at North Carolina. He won’t put up those numbers with the Cowboys this season, but I think he’ll have a significant role in the offense.
Jason Witten is now considered old and slow, but even an old and slow Jason Witten is better than most TE’s in the league. He always finds a way to get open. He doesn’t make huge plays very often, but he makes the necessary plays just about every time. He always seems to be in the right spot when Prescott needs him to be.
Have Faith In Prescott
This offense wasn’t one of the best offense’s in the league because of Ezekiel Elliott alone. There were many contributing factors that went into it. Ezekiel Elliott was a big part of the offense and team success, but so was Dak Prescott. This is a chance for Prescott to show everyone that last year wasn’t a fluke. This is a chance to show everyone that he’s the leader of the Dallas Cowboys. There’s nothing you can do about the suspension to Ezekiel Elliott, so instead of freaking out, sit back, relax, and watch Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys back to the playoffs.