Will we see a different version of Zeke in 2022?
FRISCO, Texas — ”I feel good. I’m healthy.”
Tailback Ezekiel Elliott was not shy following Thursday’s practice when emphasizing his health as the offseason program rolls along.
The three-time pro bowler saw plenty of adversity last season, rushing for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns with a torn PCL that occurred in Week 4 of the regular season.
Ezekiel Elliott: I’m Healthy
“It maybe took me a month or two to get to feeling 100-percent,” Elliott said. “I was hurt last year, but that’s football. After week one no one can be healthy.”
It was a year where Elliott, 26, learned about himself, his toughness, but also his limitations when playing one of the highest-contact positions in the sport. A season that reshaped his view on how his career will look from now on.
“I knew I was tough, and that I could play through injuries. It was definitely tough, but it’s my job,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to alter and evolve as a pro. My training now focuses on what I need to get better at, what my deficiencies are, where I need to get stronger.”
While he wouldn’t go into what exactly the deficiencies were that he continues to work on, Elliott mentioned that one of the biggest priorities this offseason is staying healthy. Prior to his injury, he averaged 85.5 yards per game and finished with just 49.4 yards per game afterwards.
Additionally, he’s hyper-focused on the team’s general success and how in year seven of his NFL career, he has a large role to play in the leadership of the team.
“We’ve got to be more consistent; I think that some parts of last year we played some really good football and other parts not so good football,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to find a way to eliminate those peaks and valleys.”
Plenty of financial decisions will be made in 2022.
Schultz and the Cowboys still have a chance to solidify a long-term deal this offseason, after the tight end was slapped with the franchise tag. The deadline there is July 15 or they’ll have to wait until January. That may work out just fine for Schultz as Blake Jarwin, the most likely candidate to syphon targets at the position, was lost for the year and released.
If Jarwin follows up his 2021 campaign with a similar season, then he will look to be the latest TE to cash in. Schultz became a staple of Dallas’ offense in 2021, clocking in at a 20.3% DVOA, fifth-best in the league. He ranked eighth in PFF grades for tight ends at 78.2.
Meanwhile Cleveland’s David Njoku ranked 11th and 18th, respectively, was also tagged like Schultz and just earned a five-year, $54.75 million deal. This past November, the Eagles’ Dallas Goedert signed a four-year extension for $57 million of new money.
Whether it be a deal to stay or he’s poached away, Schultz will be paid as long as he stays in the vicinity of his 2021 self.
5 things the suddenly flush Cowboys could do with their $22.5 million cap space - OCC, Blogging the Boys
Will the Cowboys carry over the money or make a splash with the influx of cap space?
Sign a big-name free agent (or any other free agent for that matter)
Frankly, the time to sign free agents is long gone, unless you’re willing to pick up the scraps left over after the free agency party in March. But maybe there’s a journeyman nobody has ever heard of that can be had on the cheap, Cowboys style.
There are also a couple of “big-name” free agents left (ESPN for example likes LB Anthony Barr for the Cowboys) unsigned. Such a signing would be a guaranteed crowd pleaser for that part of the Cowboys fan base that has been clamoring for a big-name addition to the team for years, regardless of whether such a move would make any sense. In any case, the players left on the market now are not going to be particularly expensive, so if the Cowboys had been interested in any of the remaining free agents, they’d have likely already signed one of them.
Cowboys’ rocky offseason has created early test for key position group - Shane Carter, A to Z Dallas
Lot of pressure will be placed on the receivers.
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys receiving corps is already getting battle tested. Arguably the position group hit the hardest this off-season, the team is giving much-needed reps to many of their young prospects.
The decision to trade Amari Cooper, the losses of Cedrick Wilson and Malik Turner in free agency, and the rehab of Michael Gallup leaves only CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown as the only available pass-catchers on the field from 2021.
On top of reloading, injuries continue to plague the Cowboys WR corps. Opening up plenty of interesting progressions during OTA’s.
James Washington & Jalen Tolbert aren’t back to practice yet, though Tolbert did take punt return reps today. Noah Brown also sat out today.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) June 2, 2022
Simi Fehoko & TJ Vasher were big beneficiaries. Both got a ton of work with Dak Prescott. Saw Fehoko make 2-3 nice snags.
Seeing Jalen Tolbert returning punts is interesting considering it was Wilson and Lamb as the primary returners last season. With Wilson gone and Lamb as the new WR1, the Dallas Cowboys are exploring all avenues to fill these positions. However, it is unfortunate he isn’t a full go just yet.
Speaking of returning punts, Tony Pollard, the Cowboys primary kick returner is also taking snaps at receiver in the slot. A good sign, as many believe he can be the team’s versatile offensive weapon in the same breath as Deebo Samuel.
Taking risks on day three is the way to go.
Damone Clark isn’t the first rookie linebacker to join the Cowboys and have to spend most of his rookie year worrying about an injury. But with only a 5th-round pick on the line, Clark’s recovery and future create a low-risk, high-reward scenario that shows Dallas may be getting smarter with its draft gambling.
Earlier this year, Clark was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck which required fusion surgery. The procedure took place about a month before the 2022 NFL Draft and naturally affected Damone’s draft stock.
How much did it hurt? Clark fell to Dallas at the 176th pick despite being one of the better LB prospects in the class. NFL.com had Damone ranked as their fifth-best LB overall and 63rd overall at any position. The injury likely knocked Clark out of being a Day 2 pick, perhaps even a late 2nd-rounder based on pure potential.
In times past the Cowboys might have been so enticed by Clark’s talent that they’d have used their 4th or even a 3rd-round pick to secure his rights. But perhaps their last experience with that kind of gamble taught them a lesson.
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