The 2016 Dallas Cowboys were very good for one major reason: Their running game was outstanding.
We’ve come to expect a great ground game from the Cowboys ever since they added Zack Martin to Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick in 2014, but putting the wildly talented Elliott behind that offensive line last year took it to another level.
While Elliott didn’t take home Rookie of the Year honors thanks to his teammate, Dak Prescott, he still blew away defenses with 5.1 yards per carry, a total of 1,994 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns.
Now they will be without Elliott for the start of this season.
Cowboys' RB Ezekiel Elliott is being suspended 6 games, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 11, 2017
Elliott’s suspension stems from an incident more than a year ago, when an ex-girlfriend accused Elliott of domestic violence in Columbus, Ohio.
In September the Columbus City Attorney’s office said it would not pursue any charges against Elliott because of “conflicting and inconsistent information”, but the NFL has it’s own rulebook, and commissioner Rodger Goodell can punish anyone for anything.
While legal authorities came to the conclusion that Elliott’s accuser was not credible, with multiple witnesses claiming the woman yelled that she would “ruin his career”, the NFL still believe after their own investigation that Elliott violated the personal conduct policy.
The immediate response among Cowboys fans is one of injustice and panic. After all, Elliott was drawing comparisons to the great Emmitt Smith last year, and his importance to the success of the team was paramount. However, I’m here to say that the Cowboys will be just fine without him for six games, and here’s why.
The offensive line Cerberus
The three-headed hound of Hades is a good way to describe Smith, Frederick, and Martin.
Between them they have missed just three games in the last three years (All from Tyron Smith this year). With a competent quarterback behind them to keep the defense from overplaying the run, they have finished no lower than 3rd in rushing DVOA. In 2015 when there was a calamity of Matt Cassell, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore back there they still managed to drag the ground game to 9th in DVOA.
In other words, they are very, very, VERY good at creating running lanes and moving defenders.
I’m not saying that I could get 1,000 yards rushing behind them, but Lawrence Maroney is one of the worst running backs I’ve ever seen play in the NFL and I’m pretty sure that he could.
While continuity is king on the offensive line and they will have to fit a new left guard and right tackle in this year, one of those players is likely to be La’el Collins, who was last seen murdering Seahawks in 2015.