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Ezekiel Elliott Proving It Absolutely Matters What Back Is Behind Cowboys Offensive Line

As much debate as there was at one time about how much it matters who is running behind the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line, Zeke Elliott is proving it certainly does.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Special players do special things. Ezekiel Elliott is showing the world he is a special player and he is most certainly doing special things. The argument of any running back can run behind the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line is 'cute' but it's not exactly accurate. It takes a lot more than plugging one person in and picking up where you left off. It takes chemistry and it takes a concerted effort to dominate on the ground; it's a mindset that the Cowboys are mastering.

When the Cowboys of 2014 were doing what they did by having DeMarco Murray rush for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns on 392 carries, 4.7 yards per clip, and 115.3 yards per game; it was no easy feat. To steal a quote from the head coach; "DeMarco Murray is a good football player and has been for a long time." It was easy to revel in the lack of success he had in Philadelphia after spurning his former team in free agency. Still, don't lose sight of the fact that Murray is pretty damn good at his position. In fact, he's third in rushing this season with 633 yards, five touchdowns, and 4.6 yards per clip average with the Tennessee Titans. To reiterate my point, DeMarco Murray was special for the Cowboys and now he's pretty special for the Titans.

So then we rewind and look back at the Dallas Cowboys of 2015. A team that ended up their season as ninth in rushing, rejuvenating the career of Darren McFadden. A once oft-injured former draft bust was able to snag 1,089 rushing yards and come in fourth in the league in rushing. Not bad for a runner that didn't fit the scheme all that much. However, some would have had you believe that McFadden was good enough. In reality, he wasn't and that is obvious by the moves they made and where he currently resides on this roster. As the Cowboys stumbled and bumbled their way to a 4-12 record last season, McFadden could get some yards but couldn't make them count in the redzone with only three rushing touchdowns in 10 starts. Elliott already has five in six games.

There weren't a ton of detractors in the acquisition of Ezekiel Elliott once the decision had become clear but there were a lot throughout the offseason. Too many of us saw a weak defense becoming the focal point and I  was very guilty of that. We made a collective mistake in thinking that any running back would be just fine. Now, we're seeing with our own eyes that though this offensive line is mighty talented, the running back sure can be the difference-maker on Sundays.

Every team tries for some balance, including Dallas, but their running game is a devastating weapon that helps all aspects of their football team. Looking around the league, there aren't a lot of clubs that do anything as well as the Cowboys run the football and it's pretty evident.

Not only does Ezekiel Elliott lead the league in rushing with 703 rushing yards, he has more individual rushing yards than 15 teams currently have collectively. The Cowboys are third in team rushing stats but are coming off their bye week and can easily be first before the weekend is over. Dallas is averaging 161.2 rushing yards per game and already have 11 rushing touchdowns through six games. They have eight runs of 20+ yards and one run of 40+ yards. They are absolutely dominating on the ground. It's to the point of it being a problem for any defense they face as the Green Bay Packers found out when their first-rate rushing defense was gashed for 191 rushing yards after only giving up 48 yards per game.

Dallas is averaging almost two rushing touchdowns per game and almost 10 rushing first downs per game. Those numbers are absolutely sickening for opposing defenses to think about. In their last three games, Elliott and the Cowboys have averaged 188.3 rushing yards per contest. They're getting on average 160 rushing yards at home and 162.3 rushing yards away from home. That's a far cry from the average of 118 rushing yards per game in 2015 and even destroying their rushing offense of 2014 with 142.9 rushing yards per game. I think you all get the point here but it's even mystifying to write about at the moment.

We've mentioned in the past that Mickey Spagnola has given us the stat that matters most in his mind. The Dallas Cowboys simply do not have winning seasons if they don't rush for more than 10 rushing touchdowns per season. Last year was abysmal and they couldn't "walk the dog" as Brad Sham has coined since their 12-4 season with Murray at the helm. Well, with 11 rushing touchdowns so far, almost two per game, the Cowboys are on pace for almost 30 rushing touchdowns this season. That not only "walks the dog" but it emphatically wins Mickey's argument for him by the truckload.

So when folks from all around the world talk to you about how the Cowboys' didn't need an Ezekiel Elliott or that anyone can run behind this line. Just bring this little piece out of the cave for good measure. Sure, the offensive line is supremely talented but don't think for one second a "special back" doesn't make the difference for this team right now. They are on a historic pace together and this running game is their measuring stick with their opponents. Ezekiel Elliott continues to be this team's opening and closing arguments and he has absolutely won this debate for the Dallas Cowboys.

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