Jerry Jones expects Ezekiel Elliott to get 20-25 carries Sunday. "He's young. I think we can use him as much as we want to."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 22, 2017
Scott Linehan expects 'significant touches' for Ezekiel Elliott - Todd Archer, ESPN
Linehan said the Cowboys are planning on heavily utilizing Ezekiel Elliott, who should have fresh legs after serving a six-game ban.
“I think we’re going to have significant touches,” Linehan said. “He looks like he’s in great shape. Practicing great. He just looks great. So he’s one of those guys that trains and prepares for the games. I think he’s ready to roll.”
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of rust. It wasn’t that long. It was six games,” Linehan said. “He got a good feel of the season. I think he was really getting stronger each game as he was playing. I really feel like he’ll probably be even more fresh than a lot of guys are going to be Week 15 or whatever it is [Week 16]. I think it will actually be beneficial for him.”
Zeke to the rescue? What Ezekiel Elliott means for Dallas' hopes - Jeffri Chadiha, NFL.com
Chadiha explains what Ezekiel Elliott's return means to the Cowboys' late-season push.
The most important thing Elliott can give them is the same swagger they enjoyed when he was actually on the field.
"He brings a lot of excitement to the table," said Cowboys center Travis Frederick. "He's fun to have in the locker room. Obviously, he's a tough runner and a versatile guy in the backfield. Throughout this whole process, we've talked about the benefits of each back, and all along, I've talked about how versatile he is and how well he runs in the offense. It's definitely a benefit to have him back."
The more multidimensional the Cowboys become on offense -- particularly against a Seattle defense that has been plagued by injuries -- the better their chances of staying alive in the playoff hunt. As Prescott said of Elliott's return, "It just makes our offense that much better, that much more powerful. It's hard to scheme and play us. You can load the box if you want. The way we've been going in the pass game, we'll beat you that way. If you want to lighten the box and let him go, we'll do that, too."
The Cowboys certainly will be a more dangerous team this Sunday. The question is whether that will be enough to keep them playing in January.
The main thing that gives Dallas hope is that it is finally whole on offense once again. The Cowboys knew life wouldn't be easy without Elliott, and they managed to play .500 football in his absence. There will always be a debate as to what their season would've been like had he sat down earlier. What matters today is what they can still do now that he's finally back in the fold.
Michael Bennett: Zeke makes Dallas "one of NFL's hardest teams to face" - Jon Machota, SportsDay
The Seahawks understand the impact Elliott's return can have on the entire offense.
"I think Ezekiel Elliott is a once-in-a-lifetime-type running back," Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said this week. "Obviously he can do every single thing that you can do as a running back. He's a special talent. When he's in the game, the Dallas Cowboys are one of the hardest teams to face in the NFL."
With Ezekiel Elliott back, Cowboys' true formula can return - Todd Archer, ESPN
Dak Prescott said the Cowboys play with a different tempo and aggressiveness when Ezekiel Elliott plays, and as comes as close to criticizing the coaching staff as he'll ever get.
"I think we went, and like you said, took it for granted, tried to just run the same offense as if Zeke was in the game or on the team, and he wasn't and things were different," Prescott said. "It wasn't the same aggressiveness, it wasn't the same just tempo, and what is the word I'm looking for, demeanor, I guess. And then we figured out what works best for us. We got it going there."
Elliott's return should make the lives of everybody easier.
"It just makes our offense that much better, that much more powerful," Prescott said. "It's hard to scheme and play us. You can load the box if you want. The way we've been going in pass game, we'll beat you that way. If you want to lighten the box up and let him go, we'll do that too. It just makes this offense that much more powerful."
NFL Playoff Picture 2018: Zeke returns to save Cowboys - Sean Wagner, CBSSports.com
Wagner runs down the key Week 16 games, including the Cowboys game.
First things first: The Cowboys need to beat the Seahawks. The good news is that this isn't a mission impossible. The Seahawks, who find themselves in an identical must-win situation, are suddenly very beatable. Shorthanded, they've dropped two straight games to the Jaguars and Rams. Without Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and a completely healthy Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks' defense is in the process of being torn apart to pieces. In their past two losses, they've allowed an average of 200 rushing yards per game.
I repeat: The Seahawks have been gouged for 200 rushing yards per game in the past two weeks.
Zeke can expose the Seahawks, just like Todd Gurley did in Week 15 when he totaled 180 yards and four touchdowns on offense. Gurley's huge day was a combination of the Rams' offensive line manhandling the Seahawks:
Expect Elliott to do something similar on Sunday. The Cowboys' offensive line ranks fourth in run blocking -- one spot behind the Rams -- according to Football Outsiders. For all of the crap they've gotten for not being the game's best unit as we all expected entering the year, they've been dominant in the run game.
This could be a bloodbath. Expect Elliott and the Cowboys to end the Seahawks season while they keep their own season alive.
Week 16 NFL predictions: Scores for every game - ESPN
Ezekiel Elliott returns against the vulnerable Seahawks, and the ESPN beat writers for both teams like the Cowboys for the win.
Brady Henderson: Cowboys 26, Seahawks 21 -- The Seahawks' run defense is trending in a bad direction heading into Sunday's meeting with the Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott, who will be back from a six-game suspension. Having linebacker K.J. Wright back from a concussion will help, and the Seahawks figure to put up a good fight, given that they need to win out to maintain any shot at the playoffs. But their defense is still missing several key players whose absences appear to have finally caught up to the Seahawks.
Todd Archer: Cowboys 27, Seahawks 20 -- The Cowboys welcome back Ezekiel Elliott from a six-game suspension on Sunday. He needs 87 yards to put up the most rushing yards in the first two seasons by a Cowboys runner. Emmitt Smith had 2,500 in 1991-92 on his way to becoming the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Elliott will run the ball well, and his return will open the play-action game down the middle of the field for tight end Jason Witten.
Final Thoughts: The soft middle of the Seahawks O-line; More - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
In one of his many his hame prep notes, Broaddus wonders whether we'll so more inside power rushes on Sunday.
We haven’t said much about Datone Jones since he’s arrived on the scene, but against the Seahawks you might hear more about him. There have been some snaps where Jones has shown power getting upfield -- which is exactly the weakness of this Seahawks offensive line. As a unit, especially inside with Ethan Pocic and Luke Joeckel at guard, they’ve struggled with rushers that show the power trait. I expect that we’ll see some success from both Jones and Maliek Collins working inside against the Seahawks.
Mind-boggling stats: Seahawks and Cowboys | NFL.com
Here are some interesting stats for the Cowboys heading into tomorrow's game.
#1: Ezekiel Elliott returns this week after a six-game suspension. He still leads all NFL players in rushing yards per game (105.0), rushing touchdowns (22), and total touchdowns (25) since 2016. Only Eric Dickerson and Clinton Portis have averaged more rushing yards per game than Elliott in their first two NFL seasons.
Better together: No one should welcome Ezekiel Elliott back to the Cowboys more than Dak Prescott. When Elliott plays this season, Prescott's 97.9 passer rating is higher than Aaron Rodgers' (97.2). When Elliott does not play, Prescott's 76.6 passer rating is lower than Jay Cutler's (80.6).
Building momentum: The Cowboys have been a much-improved team in the last three weeks (all wins). In Weeks 10-12, the Cowboys had a point differential of -70 and 7.3 points per game. In Weeks 13-15 they improved that to a +47 point differential and 29.3 points per game. Dak Prescott went from a TD-INT ratio of 0-5 to 5-2.
Demarcus Lawrence's Versatile Skill Set Has Made Him Among NFL's Best - J.J. Taylor, NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Lawrence is among the NFL's best because he plays the run with as much fervor as he rushes the passer, Taylor writes.
His teammates talk about how hard Lawrence plays every snap of every game. And defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could spend an hour talking about Lawrence's effort in practice.
"It has been a buildup," Marinelli said. "He's kind of capped it off, and that's what you love to see in a young player that you draft. The playing hard — you'll take the numbers — but it's the passion. He's relentless. He reflects the system just like Sean Lee in how how relentless they play."
"He's from sideline-to-sideline and that energizes he rest of those guys. He embodies the standard of how we want to play," Marinelli said.
But what separates Lawrence from most other big-time pass-rushers is the way he plays the run. He has 56 tackles, 34 solo, in addition to his big sack number.
"Look at how many sacks he gets on first and second down," defensive tackle Maliek Collins said. "That tells you he's playing the run and then transitioning to his pass rush and still getting to the quarterback."
"This is not a one-dimensional system," Lawrence said earlier this week. "Playing for Rod, you have to be able to do everything in all areas. I have to set the edge to the defense, make it easier so your linebackers don't have to run all the way across the field, and also rush the passer. I feel like it's very important to do everything the right way in order to win games," he said.
From undrafted to 'huge leader': How underrated safety Jeff Heath has rewarded the Cowboys for their faith in him - Brandon George, SportsDay
After a somewhat shaky start to the season, Heath is getting the GOAT treatment from players and coaches alike.
"Jeff Heath has played unbelievable for us. It's time to recognize how well he's been playing, making plays, interceptions, big hits, and to finish like that and make that play, it won the game for us," Sean Lee said after the Oakland game. "It's time to really recognize how well he's played for us, how he has stepped up. He's also made a bunch of plays on special teams. He's a huge leader for us, a guy we feed off, so I'm glad that happened to him because of how well he's been playing."
Marinelli said he sees a more confident player.
"He was in a little slump early, but, boy, he works through it," Marinelli said. "All players go through things like that. But the character guys come out of it. The guys who can't handle it, they go to the bench. The other guys, they have a way to grow and get better. He has the right mind-set to be really a special player for us.
"He's really showing us and he's showing the league what kind of player he is."
David Irving ruled out against Seahawks, DeMarcus Lawrence not on final injury report - Blogging The Boys
Outside of Irving, the Cowboys final injury report shows mostly good news.
The one bad thing is that David Irving has been ruled out while he is still in the concussion protocol. This will be the third straight game the defensive tackle has missed. The Cowboys are thin up the middle, and they will be chasing around Russell Wilson, Irving would have been a nice player to have in the game.
The good news is that DaMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens were both full participants today and are not even listed as questionable this week. Both players will be good to go in a game the Cowboys got to have.
Tyron Smith was a limited participant in today’s practice and is listed as questionable. He hasn’t been ruled out yet so maybe that’s a hopeful sign, but the odds are still that he doesn’t play this week.
Teammates Vote Jaylon Smith The Ed Block Courage Award Winner - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Surely a deserved award for Jaylon Smith.
Nearly two years since a career-threatening knee injury in his final college game, the first-year NFL linebacker has been voted by his teammates as the Cowboys’ 2017 Ed Block Courage Award winner.
The award honors NFL players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Smith and the league’s 31 other recipients will be honored this spring at the 40th Annual Ed Block Courage Awards in Baltimore, Md.
“From Day One, I never doubted myself,” Smith said. “I never doubted that I would play the game of football again.”
CB Jourdan Lewis has seen 10 targets of 20+ downfield in 2017— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 23, 2017
He’s allowed a passer rating of 1.7 pic.twitter.com/ntEoQq8m4u
Jon Machota's ideal draft scenario for Cowboys in 2018 - SportsDay Staff
The Cowboys are still battling for a playoff spot, but that can't stop draft talk from creeping into the discussion. Here's Machota replying to a reader question about draft needs.
I don't see nearly as many holes as they've had entering these previous drafts. For me, the most uncertainty is at safety and linebacker. The Cowboys are in a situation where they can absolutely draft the best player available. If I had to outline the ideal scenario heading into the upcoming draft, it would probably be get the best safety, linebacker or pass rusher available in Round 1. Address one of those positions or offensive line or wide receiver in rounds 2 and 3 and then grab a running back in the rounds after that. You could find a quality backup for Zeke in the fourth or fifth round. It's one of the few positions where talented players continue to slip.
Watch Jason Garrett call Santa "mentally tough," and Rudolph "a great leader."