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Stephen Jones: Ezekiel Elliott Can Be The Difference For The Cowboys In 2016

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For Peter King’s football blog, Albert Breer talks to the Cowboys COO about why this season will be better than last.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Ezekiel Elliott Press Conference Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Network reporter Albert Breer is also a regular contributor on MMQB.com. On Thursday the site featured a piece by Breer which detailed a conversation he had recently had with Dallas Cowboys COO, Stephen Jones. The converation centered on the failures and shortcomings of the 2015 season and what the Cowboys have done to be sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Jones the younger discussed 2015’s failed Greg Hardy experiment and gave some insight into the teams comfort level when looking at a risky player personnel move. Certainly there have been players with baggage, like Hardy, who have not rewarded Dallas for taking a chance on them, but Jones also knows that gamble sometimes pays off big.

"We’ve taken risks," Jones said Wednesday. "It was a huge risk to take (Charles) Haley back (in the ’90s). Haley was a cancer on the Niners, and that’s why they gave him to us for next to nothing. Dez (Bryant) was a risk. Dez was a Top 5 pick that fell because he was a risk. And in the end, you win on some, you lose on some. That’s a little piece of how you succeed in business. You have to take chances."

The Cowboys under Stephen Jones and personnel partner-in-crime Will McClay have taken their chances by signing players like Hardy to team-friendly, incentive-laden deals to limit the club’s long-term exposure. And the key to being able to do that is drafting well.

The 2016 draft saw the Dallas Cowboys select Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth-overall pick. Last year’s rushing attack, lead by veteran Darren McFadden, had an effective year. After seeing how the team fared after quarterback Tony Romo was lost for all but four games it was clear that effective wasn’t good enough, The Cowboys needed to be dominate. Jones and the front office saw there chance with Elliott.

"It’s one reason why we invested in Ezekiel," Jones concedes about the No. 4 overall pick out of Ohio State. "You look at it, and if you can help with your run game, you can do some things offensively that take pressure off the quarterback. That can help. We won without Tony before. (Jon) Kitna and (Kyle) Orton won games. It’s not like it’s something we haven’t done. Can you win them all? No. Can you win a championship without Tony? Probably not.

"But Zeke gives us a much better chance."

The expectations are high for EZE, but that comes with the draft position. He won’t have to do it all alone however. The Cowboys plenty of support for Zeke in McFadden and fellow veteran Alfred Morris. But make no mistake, the COO sees his rookie runner as a solution both now an long-term.

"Ezekiel is a lot of that. He helps long-term, but he has a chance to help us right away."