On Wednesday’s episode of NFL Total Access, a former Steelers defender came to defend the Dallas Cowboys amidst all the “distraction” brought upon this week with star running back Ezekiel Elliott. In a short discussion with former Patriots’ player Willie McGinest, they answered a question about Elliott’s perceived antics - is it a distraction to the team and would it be detrimental to their plans for 2017. Ike Taylor doesn’t really believe it’s going to affect the Cowboys season goals.
To paraphrase his comment: He would say ‘no’ because the Dallas Cowboys are built to handle the distractions. That offensive line makes that team able to withstand a lot.
McGinest was taken back by the statement and said that Elliott is a special kind of running back for the Dallas Cowboys. Taylor agreed but also made mention of Darren McFadden’s 2015 performance and the fact that the Cowboys have Alfred Morris as well. In Taylor’s mind, the Cowboys’ offensive line is the soul of the team. He has a valid point, their success starts on the line.
To be fair, this is all hypothetical as the investigation into the incident that occurred at a Dallas night club on July 16th has been suspended for lack of cooperation by everyone from the victim to any witnesses. Elliott hasn’t been charged with anything by the Dallas Police Department.
A spokesperson from the NFL stated they are still investigating the matter but that’s the protocol. It doesn’t mean that discipline from the league won’t eventually come down but mum's the word. Not excusing any of the allegations but any discipline is not likely to be extensive based on the available information of these instances.
Let’s go back to Taylor’s theory that the Cowboys are built to withstand the distractions because of their offensive line. The only argument available against this theory is that Elliott is one of the very best players on the team. Any potential suspension from the team will be noticeable due to his punishing abilities as a complete package at running back. Notice that Taylor doesn’t say that the Cowboys wouldn’t miss Elliott; he says the Cowboys can “withstand” it.
Both Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris are not the “spring chickens” they once were but they have been effective when called upon. Our very own DannyPhantom made the case for each of them last week:
McFadden: He ran for over 1,000 yards a couple years ago once he was handed the reigns as the team's lead running back, but only started 10 games that season. He’s proven he can be effective in this scheme, despite the offense missing key offensive stars in 2015. McFadden also is effective in the passing game, something he has done his whole career.
Morris: Early on, Morris ran the ball well and looked like a great fit in this offense. His ability to “get skinny” helped him slide right through the lanes and make some nice runs. Morris is a player that does well in a bell-cow role. He gets better as the game goes on as he finds his rhythm. His three straight 1,000 yards seasons weren’t a fluke. He didn’t suffer some game-altering injury that has affected his performance. In fact, he’s the anti-McFadden when it comes to durability. The guy is always available.
Again, there is no doubt that a suspension to Elliott would do some damage. Does that mean it’s going to derail the Cowboys from being in the discussion at the end of the season? Taylor is simply stating their offense may be predicated on a strong rushing attack but it’s hardly the only thing Dallas has going for them.
Remember, Dak Prescott was one of the league’s best passers in play-action. He completed nearly 68% of his passes, had 23 touchdowns in the air, and six on the ground. Dez Bryant was one of the most productive receivers to close out 2016. Cole Beasley led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards last year. They also pose other problems with Terrance Williams and Jason Witten on the roster. In essence, Taylor sees a strong nucleus that can win in a multitude of ways even if they start the year with some adversity.
Look, offseason distractions happen in other clubhouses too, they just aren’t always front-page national headlines like they are with the Cowboys. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t poorly timed and downright infuriating most of the time. However, Ike Taylor isn’t wrong when he says this Cowboys’ team is built to withstand distractions. You can’t fault the former Steeler for being aware that Dallas’ identity resides with those three All-Pro stalwarts up front. To be honest, it’s quite refreshing to see someone in the mainstream media not overreact to a story relating to the Dallas Cowboys.