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More likely to happen for the Cowboys in 2020: Ezekiel Elliott vs. the wide receivers

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Will Zeke thrive in McCarthy’s new offense, or will it be all about the receivers?

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We have another “which is more likely” scenario for today. Granted, right off the bat it’s probably unlikely either of these will happen because we’re picking some numbers that are on the far end of the scale. But, for this exercise, pretend you had to lay some money down on one side of the other.

We’re basing this off a statistical barrier that almost was broken last year. The Cowboys were not that far away from having three 1,000+ yards receivers. Amari Cooper had 1,189 yards. Michael Gallup put up 1,107 yards, and Randall Cobb chipped in with 828 yards.

So the question is which is more likely, the Cowboys have three receivers go over 1,000 yards each, or Ezekiel Elliott lays down 1,600 rushing yards. Let’s break it down.

The 1,000 yard receivers file

On the surface, this could seem like the easy answer. The Cowboys were only short of the mark last year by 172 yards for Cobb. They now have CeeDee Lamb in the mix, so why not shoot for the trifecta of 1,000 yard receivers? Seems easy enough.

Except for one thing. Our colleague OCC reminds that this stat, three separate receivers breaking 1,000 yards in a season on one team, has only happened five time before in the history of the NFL. Five times!

The previous five teams with three 1,000+ receivers in the same season were the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, with Kurt Warner throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Before that, the 2004 Colts, 1995 Falcons, 1989 Redskins, and 1980 Chargers achieved the feat.

That just shows you how hard it is to accomplish. With Jason Witten gone, his targets could go elsewhere, like to Lamb. But you can’t count out Blake Jarwin’s impact, and you also have to account for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the passing game. That could spread out the yards to different players

This is not an easy feat to pull off.

The Ezekiel Elliott file

With the Cowboys passing weapons and their new head coach Mike McCarthy, known for throwing the ball, it might be hard to imagine Elliott getting to 1,600 yards next season. Obviously he’d have to average 100 yards rushing a game. Interestingly enough, though, Elliott has average 96.5 yards per game in his career. He also averages 4.6 yards per carry. So some simple math shows he needs around 347 carries to pull it off. That would be a career high.

But the high-powered passing game may work to his advantage. Defenses may load up on nickel/dime coverages and decide they’d rather force the Cowboys to run the ball instead of being cut up in the passing game. Also, the Cowboys wealth of talent outside may spread defenses thin leaving things ripe for the picking on the inside for runs. And if the offense can provide early leads, Zeke may be called on to close out games by grinding out the running game.

In 2016, Elliott went for 1,631 yards on 322 rushes and a 5.1 yards per carry average. It would take another season like that to make it happen. So it’s not out of the question by any means. But his stats have also gone down from that year, and McCarthy has never had a back run for that much in a season when he was the head coach in Green Bay. In 2009 Ryan Grant ran for 1,253 yards, and in 2008 Ryan Grant had 312 rushing attempts.

So which do you have as we’re forcing you to put money down on one? Something that has only happened five times in NFL history - three separate 1,000 yard receivers. Or a turn-back-the-clock performance from Zeke with McCarthy giving him enough rushing attempts. Yes, we know neither is likely to happen, but which one is more likely than the other.

Poll

More likely in 2020 for the Cowboys.

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Three separate 1,000 yard receivers
    (746 votes)
  • 43%
    Ezekiel Elliott goes for over 1,600 yards rushing
    (579 votes)
1325 votes total Vote Now