Opinion: Cowboys’ shift away from Elliott has backfired

Opinion: Cowboys’ shift away from Elliott has backfired

© Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has carried the ball just 14 times the past three games – all losses.

 A quick rundown on items of interest as Week 15 rolls on in the NFL … 

Pressure’s on: Kellen Moore. Whatever happened to feeding Ezekiel Elliott? The Cowboys have the NFL’s “No.1-ranked” offense and Elliott ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,071 rushing yards, but it should not have taken coach Jason Garrett to show his players a highlight reel this week to remind them of who they are. Elliott heads into Sunday’s game against the Rams with a career-longest streak of five games without running for 100, which is as good a tip-off as any for why Dallas (losers of three straight) is way off-track.

Sure, problems are widespread, including a defense with more than 100 missed tackles on the season. And it’s fair to wonder whether Elliott has lost some acceleration. But part of this is on Moore, the rookie O-coordinator who drew so many rave reviews during a 3-0 start against suspect competition. If I’m Jerry Jones, I’m baffled that for the hundreds of millions invested in an O-line in front of Elliott (the NFL’s highest-paid running back), the Cowboys have gotten too far away from the formula that they built the team around.

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

Replay Video

UP NEXT

  • a screen shot of a video game: How the AFC playoff picture looks after Week 15 opener

    How the AFC playoff picture looks after Week 15 opener

    How the AFC playoff picture looks after Week 15 opener

    NFL LogoNFL
  • Rob Gronkowski wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Rob Gronkowski sends special message after making All-Time Team.

    Gronk has special message after making All-Time Team

    Rob Gronkowski sends special message after making All-Time Team.

    NFL LogoNFL
  • a football player in front of a crowd

    Cowherd: Game isn’t overwhelming Jackson — he’s overwhelming the game

    Colin Cowherd talks Lamar Jackson after TNF

    FOXSports LogoFOXSports

SETTINGS

OFF

HD

HQ

SD

LO

UP NEXT

UP NEXT

Dak Prescott leads the NFL with 4,122 passing yards, but isn’t as on-point as he once was with his decisions and unlike other quarterbacks with a mobile skill set hasn’t been as willing to run when some clutch opportunities have been there. He’s proven he can rack up big passing numbers with his former position coach/teammate calling the plays. But Dallas is 3-7 in its past 10 games, while the big-money rushing O that used to be so dominant ranks 10th. The past three games, when Prescott has thrown 49, 49 and 33 passes, Moore has virtually abandoned the running game in the second half with Elliott rushing six, two and six times. And two of the losses over the past three weeks were still close at the half. No wonder Elliott is on pace for a career-low amount of rushes per game.

Fine time, Dallas, to change the formula envisioned when taking a running back with a top-5 pick in 2016 (queue the highlight reel, Jason, from that 13-3 season). The top 5 rushing teams in the NFL – Baltimore, and then some – are a combined 51-15 this season … while the team that used to have the league’s top rushing attack has philosophically proceeded in the other direction. Feeding Zeke, as they used to say, might still be the best ticket to having a chance in January. If they get there.

Who’s hot: Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers quarterback is playing with the type of efficiency that franchise legends Joe Montana and Steve Young would be proud of. He heads into Sunday’s match against Atlanta with a streak of four games with a passer rating of at least 110 while completing 70% or better of his passes. But the real measure comes with winning. After the big rally to slay the Saints, when Jimmy G. threw for 349 yards and 4 TDs, the 49ers (11-2) can clinch their first playoff spot since 2013 with a win.

Key matchup: Derrick Henry vs. Zach Cunningham. No NFL running back has been as hot the past month as Henry, who has power-rushed for an average of 149.8 yards per game and scored 7 TDs over the past four games for the surging Titans. And no Texans defender has picked up the pace amid the season-ending loss of J.J. Watt like Cunningham, who leads the AFC with a career-high 114 tackles. This sets up a huge swing factor for the AFC South showdown at Tennessee … with the encore coming in Week 17 at Houston to settle the division crown.

The balance that Tennessee’s offense has developed is an obvious factor. Henry, second in the NFL with 1,243 rushing yards, is playing alongside one of the NFL’s hottest quarterbacks, with Ryan Tannehill just the second quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) in league history to post three consecutive games with a 75% completion rate and 130 passer rating. The run is setting up the pass … or the pass is setting up the run. Whatever. Cunningham, who had 16 tackles last week, will need to be all over the field.

Next men up: Mario Edwards, Jr. and Trey Hendrickson. The injury setbacks that have plagued the Saints all season struck the D-line hard during the loss to the 49ers, when two former first-round picks, D-tackle Sheldon Rankins (ankle) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (foot) were lost for the season. Starting with the Colts visit on Monday night and then extending to the playoffs, the defensive line depth that coach Sean Payton has raved about will be tested. New Orleans (10-3) has used an eight-man defensive line rotation, allowing Edwards and Hendrickson consistent snaps at D-tackle and end, respectively. But now the workload increases. The Saints have been plenty resilient, winning through Drew Brees’ five-game absence, Alvin Kamara’s two missed games, and a rash of other injuries.

Story continues below video:

Replay Video

SETTINGS

OFF

HD

HQ

SD

LO

Rookie watch: Drew Lock. The Bronco heads into Arrowhead Stadium – pretty much a Bermuda Triangle for young quarterbacks – after scoring victories in his first two NFL starts. Did John Elway finally hit on drafting a passer? It’s early. But last weekend at Houston, the Missouri product became the first thrower during the Super Bowl era to pass for 300 yards and 3 TDs in his first NFL road start. Adding spice for this weekend’s trip (besides KC’s eight-game winning streak against Denver) is that Lock was once romantically linked to Gracie Hunt, whose father Clark happens to own the Chiefs. Small world. Big fishbowl.

Stomach for an upset: Philadelphia at Washington. With a Week 16 showdown against Dallas probably to determine the NFC East title, the Eagles (6-7) are staring at a trap game at FedEx Field as Washington has built a measure of confidence in winning two of three games with rookie Dwayne Haskins starting at quarterback. Philadelphia is a 4½-point favorite but has been so shaky of late, losing at Miami and nearly falling to the Giants at home before a late rally. Two things that should concern Philly: The injuries that have devastated the receiving corps (Alshon Jeffery joins DeSean Jackson on IR, with Nelson Agholor questionable for Sunday); and Carson Wentz providing an X-factor with his penchant for fumbling.

If the playoffs were today … Buffalo and Pittsburgh would be the AFC wild cards. As it stands now, they’ll square off Sunday night at Heinz Field where the Bills (9-4) can clinch a playoff berth and the Steelers (8-5) can try to ensure that Devlin “Duck” Hodges becomes the first undrafted rookie quarterback to win his first four starts. Mike Tomlin, likely leading the pack for NFL Coach of the Year honors, has done a wonderful job protecting Hodges, who hasn’t passed more than 21 times in a game while supported by the stinginess of one of the NFL’s best defenses. Bills QB Josh Allen has the backing of a premier defense, too, but it had better be wary of the deep shots the Steelers will try to hit on again. This might also be dubbed the “William & Mary Bowl,” as Tomlin and his Bills counterpart, Sean McDermott, were college teammates during the 1990s. Now both could guide teams to the playoffs.

Did you notice? Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter became the youngest player (25 years, 40 days) to notch 50 career sacks since the sack became an official statistic in 1982. Tied for fourth in the league with 12½ sacks, the fifth-year pro collected more than half of his total (27) since the start of last season, when he earned first-team all-pro honors.

Stat’s the fact: Peyton Manning’s NFL record for 539 career touchdown passes could fall Monday night when Brees (537) takes aim at the Colts defense. Then again, the mark could be broken Sunday when Tom Brady (536) faces the Bengals. The Brees-Brady race will get settled next decade.

Follow USA TODAY Sports NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell

a crowd of people watching a football game: Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown (15) catches a pass for a touchdown.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Where’s Zeke? The desperate Cowboys shift away from Elliott has backfired


Source : Link

Follow 3-www.NET
Follow
e-News.US
  
Share
e-News.Us

Category Latest Posts