The time the Dallas Cowboys have dreaded has come. Ezekiel Elliott’s 6 game suspension is back on, and this time it looks like it will stay that way. He won’t be able to return to the field until the Cowboys play the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16. Elliott is one of the biggest weapons the Cowboys have offensively, and without him, many think the Cowboys will struggle.
Many have already jumped to conclusions, counting the Cowboys out of the playoffs. It’s reasonable to think so, considering they still have to play the Falcons, Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, Giants, and Raiders all without Zeke. When Zeke returns, they finish the season against the Seahawks and Eagles. Who knows what Zeke will be like when he comes back? He may pick up where he left off, or he might struggle like he did at the beginning of the season.
While it’s not unreasonable to count the Cowboys out already, those who are probably aren’t looking at the big picture, but rather only at one aspect of it. Zeke is only one player. He’s a difference maker, but he’s only one person. Does Zeke play quarterback, offensive lineman, corner, and safety? As far as I know he plays one position. The Cowboys are more than Ezekiel Elliott. If you’re one of those who have already counted the Cowboys out, let me break down 5 reasons why it may have been too early to do so.
1. Dak Prescott
Since when has quarterback been a less important position than running back? You have to have a great quarterback to be taken seriously on offense. That’s exactly what the Cowboys have in Dak Prescott. So far this season, Prescott has a completion percentage of 62.9%, 1818 passing yards, a TD-INT ratio of 16-4, and a passer rating of 97.9. He’s also added 195 yards and 4 TD’s on the ground.
What’s most impressive about Prescott is his ability to take care of the ball. He doesn’t turn the ball over often. He doesn’t put his defense in bad positions. He makes smart decisions with the ball. If you haven’t seen this guy play yet, you need to. Prescott balls. He does what he has to do to get his team a win. His team may not always get a victory, but you will always see him do everything in his power to make it happen.
2. Sean Lee
Sean Lee may not be well known outside of Dallas, but he’s one of the best linebackers in the NFL. This guy is a difference maker on defense. NFL.com has the numbers to prove it. Below is a breakdown of how the Dallas defense performs with and without Sean Lee in the lineup.
With Sean Lee Without Sean Lee
Record: 5-1 0-2
PPG: 18.0 35.0
Total YPG: 307.2 377.0
Rush YPG: 80.3 164.0
Takeaways: 10 1
Passer Rating: 91.5 109.5
Sean Lee is probably more important to this defense than Ezekiel Elliott is to the offense. He’s the guy who makes everything go. The numbers don’t lie. That pretty much tells us everything we need to know about the impact Sean Lee makes. As long as the Cowboys have him on their defense, they have a chance to win games.
3. Defensive Line
Last year the Cowboys had a solid secondary, but their pass rush was weak. This year it’s the opposite. The secondary is young and still learning, but the defensive line has turned things around, making life a lot easier for those young defensive backs. The Dallas Cowboys defense currently ranks 3rd in sacks (27).
Demarcus Lawrence is destroying offensive lineman. He ranks 2nd in league in sacks with 10.5. David Irving is also putting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks. He has 6 sacks this season, and that’s after missing the first 4 games. Irving is the current leader in sacks per game (1.5). There are other contributing factors on the defensive line, but Lawrence and Irving are the “War Daddy’s” Jerry Jones said this defensive line needed.
4. Two Former 1,000 Yard Runners
Anyone remember Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden? It can be easy to forget them when they’ve been sitting behind Zeke all season long. McFadden hasn’t even been active for a game yet. With limited snaps so far this year, Morris has taken advantage. He has an 8.3 yards per carry average on his 14 rush attempts.
Both of these running backs are former 1,000 yard rushers. They have the ability to get things done in the running game. Morris likely won’t maintain his 8.3 yards per carry, but what he’s done on a limited basis has shown us that he still has the ability to run the ball effectively. McFadden may take some time to get going, but he’s well rested and should be fresh. He will be a nice weapon for Prescott as a receiver out of the backfield.
5. Offensive Line
How can you talk about the Cowboys strengths and not talk about the offensive line? This offensive line is one of the best in the NFL, even if they’ve started out a little shaky this season. It was expected by some because of them losing two key pieces. The last few weeks though, this offensive line has looked in sync. They seem to be back to playing at the level of the best offensive line in football.
Zeke is part of the offensive line’s success, but they’re also a big part of Zeke’s success. They do very well at executing their plays and clearing running lanes. If they can do that for Zeke, I don’t see why they won’t be able to do it for Morris and McFadden.
Don’t Count Them Out Yet
The Dallas Cowboys are on a hot streak since their bye week, going 3-0 in that time. Zeke was playing well, but he wasn’t the only one. The Cowboys have been playing their best football the past few weeks, and it looks like it came at just the right time. When so many are counting them out, the Cowboys are out to prove that one player doesn’t dictate their success. They’ll probably lose some games along the way, but they have a lot of reasons for hope despite losing Ezekiel Elliott.