A look at what the future may hold for the Cowboys running back.
Feed Zeke Behind Stout Offensive Line for Another 2 or 3 Seasons. The Cowboys could attempt to run Ezekiel Elliott into the ground until injuries take their toll on his body. He has a lot of rushing mileage already, logging 1,380 carries in five seasons, which includes three terms with at least 301 carries. Based on biological age, Elliott is still in the prime of his career at 25 years old. He’s endured some wear and tear, but the star running back has avoided major injuries.
Dallas can focus on the short term and try to get the biggest bang for its buck on Elliott’s contract in the next two-to-three seasons. The Cowboys have Tyron Smith, La’el Collins and Zack Martin locked into long-term deals. They need to solidify starters at left guard and center. For now, Connor Williams and rookie fourth-rounder Tyler Biadasz or Connor McGovern could lock up those respective positions. Nonetheless, the front office should invest in quality depth that could allow the offense to compensate for injuries.
With solid run blocking, the Cowboys can squeeze a few more optimal years out of Elliott. After the 2022 term, Dallas could release him and save $8.3 million—a number that goes up to $10 million following the 2023 campaign, per Over the Cap.
Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott thinks he’s on track to play against Philadelphia Eagles - Todd Archer, ESPN
It appears as if the Cowboys will get Zeke back on Sunday.
Elliott’s season, like the Cowboys’, has not gone as planned. He has 832 yards, is averaging 3.9 yards per carry and has lost five fumbles, a career high. He is on pace to miss rushing for 1,000 yards in a season for the first time when he has played a full year. He ran for 983 yards in 2017, when he missed six games because of a suspension. With Pollard performing well — and when considering Elliott’s lucrative contract — there are some outside the organization who believe the Cowboys would be better if Pollard had a larger role. Elliott acknowledged Pollard is a great back, but he does not pay attention to what is said by those outside the organization.
“At the end of the day, those aren’t the people signing my checks,” Elliott said. “Those aren’t the cats that are making the final decisions, so I mean I think there’s a reason they’re not the ones making those decisions. I don’t think it really matters. It doesn’t hold much with me what people outside this building are saying. All that matters to us is the people in this building.”
With Leighton Vander Esch out, veteran linebacker Sean Lee will need to step up.
Put the focus on Pollard and Zeke instead of Pollard vs. Zeke. The breakout performance of Tony Pollard has prompted some observers to urge the Cowboys' coaching staff to replace the team's All-Pro running back with the second-year pro. While I understand the love-hate relationship that some fans have with big money running backs, the Cowboys should resist the temptation to pit the runners as adversaries and focus on creating opportunities for the duo to function as complementary pieces within an offense that revolves around the backfield playmakers. Whether it involves a 60-40 split in playing time and touches or some formations that feature Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott on the field together, the Cowboys should put an emphasis on maximizing the talents of their dynamic duo.
The reshuffled O-Line is finally coming together. It is not a coincidence that the Cowboys' offense has performed better behind a stabilized frontline that's logged three straight starts together. The combination of Brandon Knight, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Connor McGovern, and Terence Steele has worked out the kinks and eliminated some of the blown assignments that plagued the Cowboys' pass protection and running blocking scheme. The improved chemistry, communication, and execution have resulted in more consistent production on the ground and more efficient performance through the air. Most important, it has enabled Kellen Moore to build game plans that emphasize balance and complement an opportunistic defense
Agent's Take: Expected bonus payouts for Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and 17 other notable players - Joel Corry, CBSSports.com
Will Andy Dalton be back in Dallas in 2021?
Cowboys QB Andy Dalton. Maximum: $4 million. Expected bonus: $1 million. Dalton quickly signed a one-year deal for $3 million with an additional $4 million in incentives to back up Dak Prescott once the Bengals released him after late April's NFL Draft. Prescott's season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 has given Dalton extensive playing time.
Dalton gets $1 million for taking at least 50 percent of Dallas' offensive snaps. He's at 47 percent heading into the final two games of the season. Making any of the other $3 million is a long shot because it's based on Dallas' playoff success. With a minimum of 35 percent participation on offense during the regular season and 50 percent in the appropriate playoff game, Dalton gets $500,000 for a wild-card win, another $500,000 for a divisional-round win, an additional $750,000 for being NFC champions and an extra $1.25 million for winning the Super Bowl.
Raiders QB Marcus Mariota. Maximum: $17.9 million. Expected bonus: $1.65 million Mariota's signed a two-year, $17.6 million deal worth a maximum of $47.5 million through incentives and salary escalators. He has an incentive paying $200,000 for every game in which he plays at least 60 percent of the Raiders' offensive plays where there's an additional $125,000 in a Las Vegas win over a maximum of 12 games. Every game in which Mariota hits the 60 percent playtime mark raises his 2021 base salary by $625,000.
Film room: 3 potential edge defender targets for the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 NFL draft - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
Which edge defender would you want to see Dallas target in the draft?
Jaelan Phillips, Miami (FL). 2020 stats (10 games as of Dec. 21): 42 total pressures (9.4 pass rush productivity rating), 8 sacks and 28 total stops (7.7% run stop rate). A former five-star recruit, Jaelan Phillips took the road less traveled in his journey to the draft. Phillips started his college career at UCLA, where he displayed big-time talent as a freshman, securing 21 tackles and 3.5 sacks in seven games despite being limited a bit by an ankle injury. He suited up for the Bruins just four more times after that, as a serious wrist injury suffered in an off-the-field accident and concussions pushed Phillips to medically retire.
Although it looked like it at the time, that was not the end of Phillips’ football story. He transferred to Miami in 2019 to continue his career, sitting out entire season because of the NCAA’s transfer rules. Since returning to the field, it’s been mostly sunshine and daisies for Phillips, who quickly reminded everybody why he was one of the most highly touted recruits in the 2017 class. There’s still a lot of work to be done on the 2021 draft class, but Phillips is easily the most talented and skilled pass rusher in the group. In my estimation, Phillips is a much better player than the Hurricanes’ other highly touted edge prospect who wore No. 15: Gregory Rousseau.
Jerry Jones on why it’s important for the Dallas Cowboys to finish strong rather than tank - Staff, Dallas Morning News
The owner is clearly not a member of team tank.
Where does this year rank in terms of disappointing Cowboys seasons? Jones: “You use the word disappointing, and that certainly is that, but unique. And that has to do with the things that everybody worked through, and that was no training camp, our coach did not meet eye to eye our team until we would have been — I don’t know for sure how it is but three weeks to a month into training camp before he actually met the players on the team. That’s unique. You need to establish things earlier especially in a transition like we were in. But I think this certainly ranks as one of the most, I would say, surprising.
“I thought we had personnel-wise one of the best teams we’ve had. And, so, to give you an idea of where I’m coming from. And you say, ‘Well, that’s part of the problem. We’ve got a general manager here that doesn’t understand it wasn’t one of the best teams we’ve ever had.’ And, so, I think that availability is such a key thing relative to having success. Certainly other teams, we played one out there the other day in San Francisco that had arguably less players available than we’ve had. And they were a hare’s breath away from winning the Super Bowl last year, but see what’s happened this year with lack of having some of their key personnel. So, that’s a big deal.
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