The Dallas Cowboys have made it clear that they are trying to make this offense more “Dak friendly.” The Cowboys notably cut their number one wideout Dez Bryant, because of a lack of production on the field and attitude problems off the field, and lost Jason Witten via retirement. However, Dallas signed some weapons for Prescott, such as the dangerous Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns. Additionally, they drafted Michael Gallup, who looked impressive this preseason and could become a red zone threat. Despite all these changes, make no mistake about it: this season is all about Ezekiel Elliott.
The Dallas Cowboys’ fortunes are entirely dependent on Ezekiel Elliott’s play. Elliott had an otherworldly rookie season, accumulating 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, the best in the NFC. Last year, with a six game suspension looming, Elliott’s focus seemed to shift, and he had a very steep decline in performance. Elliott started the season out of shape and the Cowboys season was quickly in jeopardy after
a week two 42-17 defeat to the Broncos, in which Elliott managed to rush for 8 yards on nine carries. Elliott served his suspension late in the season, returning in week 16 to play the final two games of the season, and the 9-7 Cowboys missed the playoffs.
The 2018 season is one of redemption for Elliott. Despite Dallas’ attempts to become “Dak friendly,” the Cowboys’ season will solely depend on Elliott’s performance. Elliott feels he has come to camp this year with a newfound focus; he has already put last year behind him and is looking forward to this season. Zack Martin also acknowledged that the third year running back is running harder in camp, taking more reps, and is ready to handle the load this year.
Elliott still has some obstacles to overcome in his bounce back year. Dallas’ four time pro bowl star center Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease, and is out indefinitely. All-Pro guard Zack Martin may not be at full strength by week one following a preseason knee injury against the Bengals, and starting right tackle La’el Collins is coming off an ankle injury.
It should be noted that Dallas is better equipped for injuries to their offensive line than they were last year. When Tyron Smith went down in week 10, Dallas’ lack of depth showed when Adrian Clayborn lit them up for six sacks himself in a horrendous game. Dallas responded by drafting University of Texas guard Connor Williams with their second round pick.
With the lack of superstars around him, the chip on his shoulder, and the depth added to his offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott looks poised for his best season yet. The Cowboys’ rushing attack needs to control the flow of the game and set up the play action passing game for Prescott. The adversity Elliott faces will only make him hungrier, and now more than ever, the Cowboys must feed Zeke.