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Dallas Cowboys mailbag: Pondering a possible return of Ezekiel Elliott

People have questions about the Cowboys, and we strive to provide the answers.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter and Facebook about Dallas Cowboys players and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.

“Could Zeke come back to Dallas? Can he average 4-6 yards per carry?”

(Submitted by Mark Kohli via Facebook)

Brandon: Even though ownership has not shut the door on a potential return for Ezekiel Elliott, the team has moved on from him. Bringing in running backs like Ronald Jones and Rico Dowdle won’t prevent them from adding someone else, but that will be by way of the draft, if anything. The class runs deep, so finding a starting back to complement what the Cowboys have in Tony Pollard could be found in the fifth round.

Dallas is in a great position to have an explosive backfield with younger talent taking over. It’s nothing against Elliott and what he has meant to this franchise. There’s a time when people move on, and the Cowboys decided it was in 2023.

Mike: Well the first thing that needs to happen is to get number 15 off Will Grier. But theoretically, yes, Ezekiel Elliott could return back to Dallas. It’s more than likely this isn’t going to happen but Stephen Jones hasn’t officially ruled it out and Mike McCarthy has even said that “the door remains open”. But Zeke’s deterioration in efficiency is what the Cowboys will see as his biggest setback. Last season was the first time he failed to eclipse an average of four yards-per-carry, that’s a steady decline from each year of his rookie season.

“Is it make or break season for Josh Ball?”

(Submitted by Rich Gillet via Facebook)

Brandon: It all depends. Josh Ball will enter his third season with the team and has yet to get starting reps along the offensive line. Ball had his chance last season when Terence Steele went down against the Texans and was quickly replaced by 40-year-old Jason Peters. In his defense, it took a while for the Cowboys to work Connor McGovern into the starting lineup, but he was a better player and showed signs of improvement.

David Moore has mentioned Ball will be getting a look at offensive guard to see if he can win a starting job there. Ball’s days in Dallas might be numbered if the Cowboys draft someone in the first round. However, if they don’t find anyone and like who they have, he’ll undoubtedly have his chance to compete in training camp.

Mike: Easy answer here is yes. Every time people hear his name it brings shivers. But last season the offensive line was only one more injury away from Josh Ball getting into the starting lineup, for most that’s a scary thought. I was never a fan of this draft pick and voiced that opinion from the moment he was drafted. The part we hope for is he develops over the offseason to a level where he’s able to help bolster the offensive line should the worse happen. But the Chuma Edoga signing is all we need to see to know where the Cowboys coaches are on Josh Ball right now.

“What do you think is the biggest need on each side of the ball in the draft?”

(Submitted by Jason Swisher via Facebook)

Brandon: Offensive line depth is a blinking red light, especially with the Cowboys’ recent comments about trying Terence Steele at left guard. If the best five linemen become Tyler Smith, a first-round draft pick, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and Steele, then Dallas’ line can be among the best in the NFL.

On defense, it would be drafting a starting-caliber linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch is on a two-year deal, but the depth behind him is filled with question marks. Will Damone Clark take a leap in year two? Will Jabril Cox finally develop into the talent Dallas hoped he could be? Can Devin Harper play more than just special teams? If the Cowboys can find an outside linebacker that can be a difference-maker, it could be the piece that takes this defense from being great to elite.

Mike: Ironically it’s a mirror image both ways. On offense the Cowboys need to strengthen the inside offensive line. Then on defense it’s inside defensive linemen that’s most needed. The way this team drafts those positions though are complete polar opposites. If you look at the offensive line it already has three players that are first-round picks, do they go and draft a fourth to that mix? On the interior defensive line however, this front office has shown they just don’t value the position in the first round. To trace back to a defensive tackle being taken in the first round you have to travel all the way back to 1991 and Russell Maryland being the top choice, although Trysten Hill was the Cowboys first pick in 2019, but that was the second round. In this year’s draft the talent gap at the DT position is so vast that maybe this will help be the factor that make the Cowboys go early at the position.

Poll Of The Week: Finally on the Mailbag we asked which cornerback you would like to Dallas draft. Here are the results and our take on the poll.

Brandon: Christian Gonzalez, Devin Witherspoon, and Joey Porter Jr. are all great cornerbacks. They probably won’t be on the board when the Cowboys pick at No. 26. That leaves Emmanuel Forbes, who is one of my favorite players in the draft, and could be there when Dallas is on the clock in the first round. He has takeaway skills that rival what the Cowboys’ defense has gotten from Trevon Diggs. When he gets the ball in his hands, big things usually happen. Forbes also holds the FBS record for interceptions returned for touchdowns, with six in his career.

His size and tendency to give up big plays are the biggest knocks on him as a prospect. For all the positive similarities he has with Diggs, he also shares his negatives. However, give me the cornerback who has shown the ability to take the ball away, and the coaching staff can work on refining the ability to cover. With Forbes, Bland, Diggs, and Gilmore leading the secondary, no opposing offense will want to throw the ball.

Mike: Who doesn’t love them some Joey Porter. You love the aggressiveness, the tackling ability and the physicality which is something that would complement Trevon Diggs well. He’s a good processor and makes good decisions as well as having the fluidity you look for. What I was most surprised at is how little of the vote Devon Witherspoon got. If he was there at 26 that would be a huge win for Dallas and I’ll run that card in for them.

Be sure to check @kenfigkowboy and @brandoniswrite on Twitter and also Facebook for the weekly post, asking you for your questions for the weekly mailbag. Check for the Poll of The Week on Twitter. Many thanks to everyone that sends in your questions and votes.

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