A lot has been written about Ezekiel Elliott and his unfortunate suspension, but now it is time for the other side. The other side, of course, is the potential troubles that the team might have thanks to this suspension. You know that it took some time for the team to prepare for the season and now with this conundrum, it seems that the Cowboys will again have to try and find their running game thanks to a ruling, that some consider ridiculous, by Judge Katherine Failla.
Since there is a whole bunch of posts previously made on the topic of Ezekiel’s problem, and the ruling that he had to face, we will neglect that for now, and for the sake of this article turn to the team side of things. Before the ruling, the Cowboys were doing excellent as far as their running game is considered, with 300 total yards in back-to-back games that Zeke has run, and that made the fans ecstatic. But the future of their running game is not so bright. You can definitely expect a large drop-off in production on the ground which is thanks to Ezekiel’s absence. Cowboys will have to, very quickly if we might add, find a replacement for him and some candidates could be Darren McFadden or possibly Rod Smith.
The urgency in this is thanks to the fact that Dallas has 4 very difficult upcoming games – Chiefs, Eagles, Chargers and Redskins. Three of these teams have a top 15 rush defenses, including the Eagles who are currently the best in the league. Besides this, the Cowboys will have to road trip twice, and it’s against Falcons and Giants, plus there is Atlanta which has a borderline top ten run defense as well. Now, what is the solution here? Well, without any questions, Cowboys will have to rely on their defense. Yes you read right, the defense will have to play a huge role, and we know that it sounds almost impossible since this is the defense that has allowed 35, 35 and 42 points so far. It seems even more impossible when you consider the opposing quarterbacks on deck.
Although it seems that there are a lot of setbacks and tall walls for the team we believe that the Cowboys defense can hold their own. There is something that goes their way and it’s the fact that they are 15th against the rush and the pass, they are in the top half of the league in causing turnovers and the Cowboys are also fifth in total sacks. They made a sort of balancing effect so far – for every bad game they had, they managed to produce a good one after it. It can be seen from these results – they gave over 100 points to Denver, the Rams and Green Bay but they balanced it by holding back the Giants, 49ers and Cardinals to 30 points total. Not bad would you say?
One more thing to take into consideration is that the Cowboys were plagued by injuries, and in those bad games key defensive players were absent – against Denver, Anthony Hitchens (knee injury), David Irving (suspension) and Tyrone Crawford (played with only one good ankle). Against the Rams and Packers, defensive leader Sean Lee was unavailable to the team. There is something to this believe it or not, and the fact that supports this is the last two games where the team’s defense was as close to full strength as possible, and it was instantly visible. With two away games Cowboys pulled out 29 points in total allowed, neither of the opponents managed to reach 300 total yards, they’ve had a total of 9 sacks, 6 forced turnovers and 20.5 tackles for loss. Now isn’t that a result when the defense does its job in full capacity.
This result is even better when you give it some perspective – only two teams average under 15 points per game, and only 5 NFL teams average under 300 yards per game. With these stats, we believe that a scenario where the defense plays a huge role in the next games is entirely possible and viable. The players that returned came at the perfect moment, and it just might save the Cowboys this season.