It is no secret what the Dallas Cowboys want to do and how the team was built. The bread and butter of America’s Team is the rushing attack. A physical and relentless ground game that features a running back that can control a game and an offensive line that wears opposing defenses out. It’s a perfect recipe to counter the league-wide high-flying offenses led by the Tom Brady’s, Aaron Rodgers’, and Drew Brees’ of the world.
The foundation for this began in April of 2011, when Dallas opted to select USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith instead of edge rusher J.J. Watt with the ninth overall selection. Then, the Cowboys would go on to take Wisconsin's Travis Frederick in the first-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Dallas then stuck to its guns and surprised many by selecting Zack Martin with the 16th overall selection in 2014 — picking the Notre Dame guard over the more flashy Johnny Manziel.
The Cowboys have added some offensive linemen since then, too. La’el Collins was once seen as a first-round prospect, but an off-the-field concern kept the former LSU lineman from having his draft-day moment in 2016. Then, of course, Dallas saw Connor Williams fall right into their laps last month. The Coppell, Texas native was considered to be a first-round pick before the draft began. The Cowboys also added Cameron Fleming in free agency.
As it stands right now, the youngest offensive line in football resides in The Big D:
The Cowboys offensive line has combined for 13 Pro Bowl appearances, five first-team All-Pro seasons, and six second-team All-Pro seasons. It features three former first-round picks in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, an undrafted free agent in La’el Collins who was widely held to be a first-round talent, and now 2018 second-round pick Connor Williams.
This lineup will have an average age of 25.8 on opening day of the 2018 NFL season, which makes it the youngest O-line in the NFL. If you’re not a Cowboys fan, that’s got to be a scary thought.
But what about the guys carrying the rock? It’s nice to have a strong offensive line leading the charge, but a dynamic running back in the mix makes it that much more dominant.
Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth-overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and, needless to say, the former Ohio State superstar has definitely lived up to the hype when on the field. When Zeke is suited up, the Cowboys have a record of 19-8 over his first two seasons. Elliott led the league in rushing as a rookie and finished with 983 yards in ten games last season — the best yards-per-game average in the NFL in 2017.
Elliott, a Pro Bowler and All-Pro, is one of the best players in the NFL, regardless of position. The 22-year-old star has the talent to not only change an offense for the better, but to cause headaches for opposing defenders and defensive coordinators. His ability to hit the home-run on the ground or to battle for the tough yards in between the tackles is vital to the Cowboys. Zeke’s skill-set in the passing game — in pass protection and as a receiver — makes him one of the more unique talents in the game.
Zeke and his 2,614 career rushing yards and 22 career touchdowns is just one element of why the Cowboys may have the league’s best rushing attack in 2018. He is a game-changer in his own right, but the Cowboys have added some intriguing pieces that have the potential to make the run game, and the offense as a whole, so much more dynamic in 2018.
The Cowboys not only added Connor Williams to the offensive line in this past year’s draft, they also made some moves during the weekend in Dallas to help the rushing attack. In a surprise move, Dallas traded a sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for 2010 first-rounder Tavon Austin. Austin, a shifty, play-making talent that can play all over the offense and in the return game, has the talent to be a change-of-pace back and a receiver for Dak Prescott. We wrote on what he can bring to the Cowboys offense.
The acquisition of Austin gives Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan a variety of different options to play with. If the Cowboys want to use the former first-rounder as a running back, his 1,200+ rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns shows he can make an impact. Austin can also be a factor as a receiver in the backfield, giving the Cowboys two pass catchers at the running back position.
Austin brings value in three areas for the Cowboys: a speedy back that can complement Zeke, Rod Smith, and the newly acquired bruising back Bo Scarbrough, a dynamic slot receiver for Dak Prescott that is likely an upgrade over Switzer, and a return man that can take a punt to the house — all can drastically improve a team that was battling for a playoff berth in late December.
Would playing Tavon Austin out of position for four seasons really be the most ridiculous thing Jeff Fisher has ever done? pic.twitter.com/d1Z88M1NRw— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 28, 2018
Tavon Austin was the first of two moves on the draft’s Saturday that appear to have the potential to make the run-game even better this upcoming season. In the seventh round, the Cowboys grabbed former Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough with the 236th pick.
Scarbrough is a former five-star prospect that runs with a bruising, hard-nosed style. His 6-foot-2 and 235-pound frame makes him a bulldozer in between the tackles, the last thing that worn down defenders want to see. The Vanderbilt Commodores were just one team that witnessed that exact scenario:
Bo Scarbrough is a very tough man to bring down. pic.twitter.com/qe224K3FOg— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 23, 2017
As did the Washington Huskies:
Can you imagine being an opposing defender who's had his ass kicked all game by Ezekiel Elliott... then seeing Bo Scarborough's big ass self coming at you.............. fresh? pic.twitter.com/MJcBSsuYdT— DCBlueStar ⚡ (@DCBlueStar) April 29, 2018
Scarbrough rushed for 812 yards and 11 touchdowns on 125 carries in 2016. Injuries, however, hampered the Tuscaloosa native in 2017, as the junior totaled 596 yards and eight scores this past fall. While he may not have an every-down type skill-set, Scarbrough is a talent that can surely be utilized in spurts — especially along the goal line and in short-yardage situations. I am sorry in advance for defenses that have to deal with Zeke and then have to see Scarbrough run out onto the field on third-and-short situations.
Imagine being exhausted from tackling Ezekiel Elliott and then looking up at Bo Scarbrough.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) April 28, 2018
Finally, you can add Dak Prescott to the rushing attack. Sure, you don’t want your franchise quarterback taking too many unnecessary hits, but Prescott has the ability to hurt defenses on the ground in addition to in the air. Since entering the league in 2016, Dak has rushed for more touchdowns (12) than Cam Newton (11). He also has over 630 yards to his name. Oh, and this play, too:
He also stiff-armed Eagles safety Jalen Mills en route to a 56-yard score during his collegiate days:
Implementing some designed runs and read-option plays with Zeke for Dak, especially in the red zone, has the ability to make this Cowboys offense much more dynamic. I’m not saying to go overboard with it, but some here-and-there could do a lot of things for Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan.
That’s not even mentioning Rod Smith, who showed some flashes at different times last season. Like in an 81-yard touchdown against the Giants, for example. Dallas also added Jamize Olawale from the Raiders. The 6-foot-1 and 238 pound fullback should open up some holes for Zeke and company.
Can the Cowboys have the league’s most lethal rushing attack in 2018?