Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has received a six-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
USA TODAY Sports
During Dak Prescott’s acceptance speech for the NFL offensive rookie of the year award in February, he asked Ezekiel Elliott to join him on stage.
“Do we have a knife,” Prescott said, gesturing toward Elliott, “so I can cut this in half?”
Now that one half of the dynamic Dallas Cowboys duo has been suspended forsix games — the NFL found Elliott to be in violation of the personal conduct policy for his role in alleged domestic violence incidents Friday — the team’s offense takes a big hit.
Prescott may have gotten more of the accolades, but Elliott was just as important to Dallas.
Behind one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, Elliott was the team’s workhorse. He ran the ball 322 times for 1,631 yards, leading the league in both categories. He caught 32 passes for another 363 yards and scored 16 total touchdowns. He accounted for 68.1% of Dallas’ regular-season rushing yards. And no team ran the ball more often than the Cowboys (499 carries), who also finished 30th in pass attempts.
Dallas, at least, has some short-term options who might be able to produce in the interim.
Two seasons ago, Darren McFadden ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,089 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry) and three scores operating behind that formidable line. But McFadden will turn 30 later this month, an age when running backs typically start to fade. He’s coming off of a season in which he started the year on the reserve/non-football injury list for a broken elbow and appeared in only three games.
Though he’s a more-than-capable short-term replacement, McFadden is not as powerful or instinctive a runner as Elliott.
This also means Alfred Morris, 28, who played well in spurts last season, likely takes on a key role and becomes a vital part of the running game. He provides a deliberate change of pace to McFadden’s smooth and slashing running style.
For further insurance, the Cowboys have also picked up veteran running back Ronnie Hillman.
Most significantly, though, Elliott’s absence now puts a ton of pressure on Prescott and the passing attack.