Film room: How Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ run game stacks up vs. other NFC East rushing attacks - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
Can anyone in the NFC East come close to matching the Cowboys’ rushing attack?
It starts with Elliott, who is one of the NFL’s best running backs entering his fifth season. Elliott is an extremely tough runner who uses his outstanding vision to limit negative plays and consistently moves the chains. Among running backs, Elliott finished first in first downs (77) and third in runs over 10 yards (38). Elliott also finished first in defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) at 324, meaning if a replacement-level player was given Elliott’s 301 carries last year, that player would be expected to gain 324 fewer yards than Elliott did.
Despite the wear and tear of getting 300-plus touches in every season except 2017 (shortened by suspension), Elliott’s effectiveness doesn’t appear to be waning. He finished 2019 with career highs in avoided tackles (48) and yards after contact per attempt (3.09), according to Pro Football Focus. And for the first time since drafting Elliott, the Cowboys complemented him with a high-level running mate. Tony Pollard proved to be the lightning to Elliott’s thunder as a rookie in 2019.
Pollard, a fourth-round draft pick, was an electric addition to the offense, finishing first among running backs with at least 60 carries in yards after contact per attempt (4.51) and elusive rating (116.1). He forced 26 missed tackles on just 101 touches, according to PFF.
Rookies will have a rather unusual first training camp in the NFL.
Within all those guidelines is the game plan to install the playbook and get conditioned for actual football practice. The Cowboys' veterans will begin arriving to camp this week, but even after the full team is together there will be a lengthy ramp-up period to get players acclimated. Biadasz said training at home in Wisconsin, without the framework of an offseason program, was a challenge.
"I did the best I could with the time I had. I definitely got to work out and everything, but training alone was a little bit different," he said. "It was my first offseason training alone, but I maximized my opportunities and got in the best shape I could be until we got here to Dallas." At long last, Biadasz and his fellow newcomers have arrived at training camp. Whenever practices do begin, he says he's 100% recovered from his offseason shoulder surgery and ready to go.
In the meantime, there's that message of personal accountability and safety – and it's one he says he's taking seriously during the downtime he does have. "I would say, for myself, once we get done with walkthroughs and we're done for the day, I'll stay here and get some recovery and get dinner. Then, I'll walk over to the hotel," he said. "I'm doing my part as best as possible, so I stay in my room – and that's about it. I try to do some stretching here and there in my room, or if I have a question I can call my coach or text him."
After Maurice Canady’s decision to opt out, rookie Reggie Robinson II likely moved up the depth chart.
Reggie Robinson II, who was likely to make the roster after being selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, will get more of an opportunity to earn a role in 2020 with one less cornerback to compete for snaps. There is still a lot of depth on the roster. However, one less player vying for rotational cornerback snaps creates more practice reps and in game snaps for other players, and Robinson stands to benefit the most.
With the three starting spots likely coming down Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Trevon Diggs, and Daryl Worley, Robinson was looking like a player who would be settling for scraps. However, the depth chart just got a little less crowded, and he will get more opportunities to prove that he belongs with the guys at the top of the depth chart.
With Canady bowing out of the 2020 season, Robinson has one less player in the way. He can thrust his name into the starting cornerback competition with a strong camp. Even if he doesn’t emerge as a starter week one of the season, Robinson will get more opportunities to show what he can do for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff.
With less celebration and more COVID-19 tests, Cowboys begin camp at own facility for first time in team history - David Moore, Dallas Morning News
More news on what may be the most unusual training camp to date.
On this rainy Tuesday in late July, the players drove from their homes to The Star, walked up to a trailer on the back loading dock, had a swab stuck up their nose then turned around and went back home.
Call it a soft opening. Not only has the coronavirus forced the Cowboys to begin training camp at their own facility for the first time in franchise history, it’s pushed back the team’s timeline to prepare for the regular season. The veterans are scheduled for two more COVID-19 tests — all three must be negative — before they are allowed into The Star on Saturday for physicals. Then comes strength and conditioning. The first padded practice of this camp won’t take place until Aug. 17.
What were the Cowboys doing on that date one year ago? They were in Hawaii, playing the LA Rams in their second preseason game before returning home to finish their preparation for the season opener. Frisco has a lot going for it, but face it. It’s not Honolulu. Tuesday was more about testing and procedural moves than preparation for the opener.
Who is your pick to have a surprise year in 2020?
Bradlee Anae, DE....The Cowboys replaced their 2019 sack leader, Robert Quinn, with a pass rusher in Aldon Smith who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015. Sure, the Cowboys have other defensive ends like Tyrone Crawford, Joe Jackson, and Dorance Armstrong on the depth chart. But none have shown the pass-rushing skills that Quinn put on display last season.
That’s were a fifth-round rookie out of Utah could step in. Bradlee Anae was a beast in college that many analysts projected to be much better than the round he was taken. Anae posted 13.0 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss in 12 games for the Utes last season.
With a new defensive coaching staff in place, throw out any preconceived notions about the veterans on the roster and their status on the depth chart. If there is a year where a rookie can come in and earn a significant role on this Dallas Cowboys’ defense, it’s now.
We’ve been building a 53-man roster all week on the BTB podcast network. The Talkin’ The Star crew handled running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
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