If it wasn’t for the one-man show, Ezekiel Elliot, the Dallas Cowboys would not currently be first in their division. Period. And soon, they won’t be first in the NFC East, the toughest and most competitive division this season. Here’s why.
Normally when you see a 6-1 team, you notice many strengths. After all, 6-1 is a dominating record through the first half of the season. But unlike the other teams in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys appear unbalanced and still don’t impress me. Short and simple, I just can’t buy into the hype that they’re one of the best teams.
Let’s start with the obvious: Elliot is a stud. The guy has decent size and great vision and he finds the hole to squeak out every yard he can earn. He’s a workhorse. He can get his offense the five yard gain or the 60 yard gain. He’s consistent, as well as explosive. He’s fast, he’s shifty, he breaks tackles, and he possesses good hands. The whole skill set is there as a dynamic offensive weapon. But, in what other areas does Dallas finish in the top five?
The Cowboys are 20th in the league in passing yards, 18th in pass defense, 21st in sacks, and 22nd in interceptions. With these kinds of rankings, how can this team have the second best record in the league right now? The bottom line is the Cowboys do just enough to win games. They’re not a flashy, strong team outside of their running game. Perhaps some credit is due to their offensive line – it’s still one of the league’s best as they pave the way for Elliot and protect Prescott fairly well, surrendering just 11 sacks.
Speaking of Dak Prescott, he is more the game-manager type of quarterback, not the big time play-maker. He has thrown for just nine touchdowns, and on the other hand, just two interceptions. There’s not a huge need to pass the ball when you can hand it off to Elliot for most of the game. This is a very traditional and safe game plan. If the Cowboys are forced to pass the ball more, a few more losses are in store for America’s team.
And what if tragedy hits and Elliot gets injured? Alfred Morris hasn’t been one of the league’s best running backs since his rookie season and is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. This Dallas team isn’t a one-two backfield punch after all.
Then there’s Prescott’s favorite receiving options. Cole Beasley, the Cowboys’ leading receiver, ranks just 23rd in the league in catches (37) and 28th in the league in receiving yards (443) among starting wide receivers. Terrance Williams, the receiver opposite Beasley, has produced even less, scoring just one touchdown in his seven starts. With the return of Dez Bryant, perhaps there is some optimism for this team.
How about on the other side of the ball? No one on the Dallas defense scares offensive linemen. Tyrone Crawford leads the team in sacks with just 3.5. Other than that, Dallas is very pedestrian on defense. They don’t force a ton of turnovers, not as much as you’d typically expect from a 6-1 team.
Are the Dallas Cowboys a dismal team? Absolutely not. But do they live up to their 6-1 record? Absolutely not. The Cowboys barely beat the Redskins and somehow came from behind to beat the Eagles. Teams will catch on and exploit the one strength Dallas has and the Cowboys’ record will simmer down.
Stop Ezekiel Elliot, the one man show for Dallas, and they will start to lose more games. Hey, the Giants did it in week one and they came out on top. With the NFC East being the only division in the NFL in which each team has a winning record, one or two games is all it takes to shake the standings.