Can Cowboys cope with Ezekiel Elliott out
Can Cowboys cope with Ezekiel Elliott out The day the Dallas Cowboys hoped never to see has arrived.
With Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension setting in after the running back was denied an injunction, an offense centered on his contributions now will have to look elsewhere during a crucial stretch. Starting with a matchup against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the Cowboys’ next four games (all before Elliott’s expedited appeal hearing on Dec. 1) could determine whether the team can secure a second consecutive playoff berth for the first time since 2007.
Quarterback Dak Prescott undoubtedly will shoulder some of the additional offensive burden, but coaches said they don’t plan to divert from their ground-focused attack. Yet there’s little precedent for replacing Elliott, who has 191 of the 215 carries by Dallas running backs this season.
Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden are all in line for work in a potential committee approach. Morris, however, looks like the best fit to take over a bulk of the action, as his one-cut running style translates well to the Cowboys’ zone approach.
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The absence of all-pro left tackle Tyron Smith, who was ruled out with a groin injury, will serve as another significant obstacle in establishing a rhythm for the run game.
At 4-4 and fading in the NFC playoff picture, the Falcons are in a similarly precarious spot. Atlanta’s run defense ranks in the middle of the pack, but it gave up 201 rushing yards to the Carolina Panthers last week. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett’s statistics belie how disruptive he has been, but he and Dontari Poe could have a tough day going up against two all-pros in center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin.
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Here are four other matchups that could define Week 10 in the NFL:
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell vs. Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers
With a league-high 11 sacks, Campbell has paved the way for the NFL’s best pass rush in “Sacksonville.” The 31-year-old is proving to be one of free agency’s best signings, as the former Arizona Cardinals standout has the 5-3 Jaguars in the hunt for their first playoff berth since 2007.
But the Chargers have won the last six games in the series, all by an average of 19 points. In his seven career games against the Jaguars, Rivers has completed 71.1% of his passes with 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Los Angeles has provided Rivers with improved protection this year, with its 11 sacks allowed tied for sixth fewest. Campbell should be a difficult matchup for the Chargers offensive tackles, but he could do the most damage against an inexperienced interior line when he kicks inside on third downs.