Ezekiel Elliott is focused.
FRISCO, Texas – Before the pandemic, there were a few things that were rather consistent when it came to Ezekiel Elliott.
Every Wednesday, when the media was allowed into the locker room, there was Zeke, standing by his locker, ready to speak to reporters for his weekly press session.
And after the games, while other players prefer to shower and get dressed before speaking to the media, there was Zeke, usually still in uniform, ready to talk and give his assessment about the previous game – win or lose.
That’s what we’re used to seeing out of Zeke. So far in 2021, that hasn’t been the case as Elliott has not talked to reporters during the OTAs or the minicamps.
But what might be described as a quiet offseason for Zeke with the media, he’s definitely been putting in the work. And his teammates and coaches have certainly noticed.
“Zeke looks great,” Dak Prescott said of Elliott, who came into the league with him in 2016. “He’s in the best shape of his life — looking fast. Everybody’s seen the clips of him working out independently with his running back coach. His cuts, just how explosive he is.”
The run defense has to be better in 2021, it certainly can’t be any worse.
Under the new direction of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the Dallas Cowboys underwent a targeted effort to aggressively revamp the run defense. Precise additions occurred by identifying player strengths and scheme fit needed to excel.
Many significant benefits come from having a suffocating run defense in the NFL. One, it greatly limits defensive confusion on play-action calls. Second-level defenders are far less likely to bite on fake handoffs when the front is corralling the run.
More advantageous down and distance is another benefit. Defending a versatile offense facing 2nd and 5 is much more difficult than 2nd and 9.
In the modern game, offensive coaches are less likely to run again on second down with a long-distance needed to convert. One passing attempt at a first down completion is not preferred.
Lastly, making teams one-dimensional beyond the first quarter is a sizable defensive advantage. It’s rare to see a team keep plugging away at the run once the opening quarter showed few benefits and increased limitations through wasted downs.
NFC East teams shouldn’t be anybody’s favorite.
FRISCO - Dan Orlovsky recently made an appearance on ESPN’s NFL Live, where he named the Washington Football Team as one of his top four teams in the NFC.
So, no Dallas Cowboys in the bunch.
The Washington Football Team has been known as a defensive powerhouse, so it can be expected that the defensive side of the ball has garnered some national praise. But Orlovsky showed his love to the other side of the ball for the WFT, too.
Orlovsky said, “I think, first of all, this offense is going to be predicated on a ton of speed. This might be the fastest offense in the NFL.”
He then discussed the speed of Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, and how the recently-acquired Samuel can be a key to this offense. Two other players he said to look out for to be contributors were wideout Dyami Brown and running back Antonio Gibson.
Orlovsky continued, “Those are four guys that have absolute gas on offense.”
Is Washington an offense opposing teams should fear? We’ve recently said that about the Dallas Cowboys’ offense, but should we be considering Washington’s offense to be equal to or better than what we see in Dallas?
If the defense doesn’t step up, things could get ugly in Dallas.
Mike McCarthy’s debut season with the Dallas Cowboys was bitterly disappointing. Of course the multiple injuries, particularly to offensive starters, was major, but second to that was the frequently putrid performance of the defense. It led to the decision to not keep Mike Nolan. He may have been a bit of a scapegoat, but there is little disagreement about him failing in multiple ways. Now Dan Quinn has been brought in as the new defensive coordinator. His success or failure will not only be a big factor in the success of the team this year, it will be the primary determinant of how long McCarthy hangs onto his own job.
While the head coach avoided becoming part of an even bigger housecleaning after 2020, he still carries the weight of hiring Nolan in the first place. Jerry and Stephen Jones have the final say on things, but they have long had a more collaborative approach to running the team than many acknowledge. The original staff was mostly based on what McCarthy wanted, and presumably Quinn’s hire is the same. If the defense once again goes through a near collapse, it may be impossible for McCarthy to convince his bosses that he can do the job.
McCarthy was less of a hands-on head coach than a manager of his assistants. The key evidence for this is Kellen Moore. While there had to be some influence from ownership about retaining Moore as the offensive coordinator, the new head coach always professed to being completely in accord about the retention. McCarthy followed through by being very hands-off about play-calling. Presumably that reflects his involvement in the meetings between games as well. It worked, despite the ten losses. Dak Prescott was tearing up the field before his injury, the wide receivers still had very strong seasons despite the backups that tried to fill in at quarterback, and by the end of the year they even put together some decent performances behind an extremely patchwork offensive line. McCarthy is an offense-minded coach, so this had to have been a deliberate decision for him. It was probably also mindful of the Jones family’s high regard of Moore, but nothing from last year’s debacle should motivate McCarthy to get more involved in Moore’s responsibilities.
Trevon Diggs will grab 5 interceptions
After the Cowboys got the steal of the 2020 NFL Draft when they took CeeDee Lamb 17th overall, they got another one the very next round. Trevon Diggs was selected at 51 and the expectations began immediately.
He had somewhat of a rollercoaster season which is what you expect from a rookie cornerback, and missing four games with a broken foot stalled his progression as well.
Despite the ups and downs, Diggs finished with 58 tackles and led the team in interceptions (3) and passes defended (14), making him the first rookie in team history to accomplished that. With one NFL season under his belt, the former receiver turned cornerback will see his impact increase as he looks to further establish himself as the team’s CB1.
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