Food for thought: Tonight I was in the mood to write an article. And as I sat at my computer, I said to myself, "Hmm, what should I write about?" I glanced in the mirror and completely forget that I was wearing my Ezekiel Elliott jersey for the first time. It got me thinking: "How many times am I going to see a #21 find the endzone in 2016?" My answer: A lot.
In an offense that built itself on running the football with success in 2014, DeMarco Murray enjoyed the most productive season of his career. At the time, the offensive line was blossoming into one of the best in football. Tony Romo evolved his game into a more efficient one and the defense was able to perform at its best. When Murray left in free agency, the Cowboys were dealt with the challenge of finding success without Murray in the trio of Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar. After Randle's troubles with the law and Dunbar's season-ending injury, hopes fell on McFadden's shoulders to carry the load and spark the Cowboys' running game to find that same success in 2014.
Despite being given the starting role in Week 7, McFadden flourished with the job, re-inventing himself and finishing as a top-five rusher in the league in the process. Even with their problems at quarterback and their lack of playmakers, the Cowboys still managed to find success on the ground. And while running back wasn't the biggest need, the Cowboys decided to turn something that wasn't necessarily a problem into something that can bring this team to the next level. They not only went out and signed Alfred Morris, but they drafted Ezekiel Elliott in the first round in hopes of having that same productivity and success that they had in 2014.
In Elliott, the Cowboys have a freakish player who really does not have any weaknesses at all. In baseball, a common term that is used to describe a star player is a "5-tool player." That's in reference to a player that can hit for average, can hit for power, can field, has speed and has a strong throwing arm. Elliott may just be a "5-tool player" in football for his ability to find the hole, run through the tackles, run with speed, catch passes out of the backfield, and play an active role as a pass-blocker.
We've heard throughout the Cowboys' offseason workouts that Elliott holds the keys to this offense. In OTAs, there weren't many plays where the Cowboys weren't giving Elliott somewhat of a role. But when you have a player as talented as Elliott, it really does not come as a surprise that the team is finding a way to forcefeed the former Ohio State Buckeye. This is a player that is going to elevate the franchise to a level that they haven't reached in quite some time.
The master plan in 2016 is for the Cowboys to get back to the playoffs. If the team can stay healthy, this is something that is very attainable. In a division that usually takes about nine wins to finish in first place, the Cowboys have a roster that is far superior in terms of talent and depth in comparison to the other three teams. Even with a healthy Romo and Dez Bryant in 2014, the Cowboys lacked a glamour piece in the running game to open up holes in the defense. Elliott is not only going to force defenses to zone in on the running game, but he's going to open up coverages for guys like Bryant, Jason Witten, and Cole Beasley to find space and win matchup battles.
I'm still curious as to how the Cowboys will incorporate the other running backs into their offense, but Elliott is a guy that will immediately help this team as a whole. I was asked continuously after the draft if the Cowboys made the right pick regarding Elliott and Jalen Ramsey. My answer was this: Elliott will help this team immediately, whereas Ramsey would not.
It's as simple as that. With Elliott, the Cowboys are more complete. Their triplets are going to be quite difficult to defend and stop. Romo will have another superstar around him and the offensive line is only going to improve. A lot can happen until the 2016 season, but barring any injury, all signs are pointing up for the Cowboys and Elliott.