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Ezekiel Elliott Will Lead The Cowboys To The Playoffs

The Cowboys may be without Tony Romo, but they still have an explosive playmaker on offense.

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Tony Romo went crashing to the ground during the first quarter of the Seattle game, so did the hopes and aspirations of Cowboys fans everywhere. This was supposed to be the year. After all, a remarkable offensive display in 2014 demonstrated that the offense was good enough to carry a suspect defense. But Romo got hurt. Again. The season is lost so we should all just go eat worms.

Hold up a bit. Maybe we should rethink this before choosing to partake in such a delectable entrée. The sky is not falling, folks. And it’s not because Dak Prescott is going to be the second coming of Romo. That book is a long ways from being written. While there is some intriguing upside to the Cowboys rookie quarterback, the only thing he's really done is solidify the idea that the team has a viable option at quarterback.

Viable. That’s not going to get you to the promise land unless you got some awesomeness stashed elsewhere. Well, as luck would have it – that’s exactly what they got.

The front office witnessed the 2015 season just like we did. They understood that life without Tony Romo was a big problem for this team. For most of us, this translated into the idea that they would spend the 2016 offseason scratching and clawing for a quality option at backup quarterback in effort to reduce the likeliness of having to relive all those misadventures of last season. But they didn’t do that. Instead, they went about it a different route. A route they’ve actually been going about for some time – build the team around Romo.

That’s right. Rather than looking for Romo 2.0, the Cowboys have been trying to wean themselves off of being so dependent on him. In fact, the great season of 2014 saw Romo throw for an average of only 247 yards a game. That is a career low for him (with the exception of last season when he was knocked out of two games). The team instead relied heavily on a stout running game that featured a talented offensive line and the new Cowboys single-season rushing leader, DeMarco Murray.

Murray is gone, but the Cowboys have something much better – Ezekiel Elliott. He was outstanding in college, but there are people that are reserving judgment on Zeke until they see what he can do against NFL players. Fair enough. But on Thursday, fans got a glimpse of just that. He averaged nearly seven yards a carry against one of the best defenses in the league. Last year, there were three dominant teams that shut down the run, only allowing 83 yards a game on the ground. Seattle was one of those teams (Denver and the New York Jets were the other two). The great run-stopping team of the Pacific Northwest allowed a Romo-less offense to march 81 yards. All of these yards gained were on the ground except the last play, a 17-yard touchdown to Jason Witten.

Zeke led the way. And the fun thing about watching him play is that he was just getting warmed up. After his first three carries only netted him nine yards, he was then able to churn out 39 yards on his next four carries, which is almost 10 yards a carry. That’s the beauty of this new revamped running attack the Cowboys have. They pride themselves on being able to wear you down and put the defense on its heels while the ground attack runs all over you. They are going to keep coming at you and then eventually Elliott is going to start breaking off sizable gains. They will move the chains, they will chew some clock, but most importantly – they will score points.

The Cowboys have something special in Elliott.

Ezekiel Elliott is the ultimate running back. He has speed, he has power, he has vision, and his footwork gives him remarkable elusiveness. He’s very smart as he handles his assignments very well and is a proven pass blocker. These are all great traits, but there’s more. He’s very driven to win and has a passion to be the very best. He prepares hard and plays with a level of intensity that makes you grateful he’s wearing the star. On his first ever carry, he was seen shoving the defender away after he wouldn’t let go of him after the whistle. And he kept going after four-time Pro Bowler Kam Chancellor. The kid is up for the challenge and he has the skillset to deliver.

Now, more than any, is a time where the decision to take Elliott with the fourth-overall pick seems so paramount. With one swift selection, the Cowboys have altered the player who is going to be the focal point of their offense. And this is true whether Tony Romo is on the field or not. The Cowboys recognized him as a gifted player who can really light it up in this offense. If their projections are correct, he’s going to be a star in the league. Instead of selecting players that are going to help Romo the most, the team is picking players who are going to help the team the most.

Unlike Todd Gurley who joined a dismal offense with a lot of deficiencies, Zeke joins a squad that is loaded with weapons. There’s going to be a lot of single coverage for players like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Those guys don’t lose battles like that very often. Then, there going to be some wide open players like Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. They do good things for this offense when they’re open. If teams overload to stop the run, the Cowboys have options to make them pay. And if they don’t, Zeke will quickly remind them that they should.

While there are still many reasons to be excited about this season, there is one other aspect of this that is very alluring to fans. This team is really young and is continuing to get better. There is a level of impatience that follows this group because people understand that the sand is gradually falling from Romo’s hourglass. If this Dak Prescott guy actually turns out to be pretty good – look out. Something of that nature could drive a very impressive Super Bowl run in the near future. Sure, that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, but with each successful drive that results in a touchdown, you’re going to start feeling it.