Throughout an NFL season, most teams will face either injuries or suspensions that alter the roster and game planning. This didn’t escape the Cowboys in both cases. It was the suspension however of the all-world running back Ezekiel Elliott that altered these Cowboys the most.
After finishing 3-3 without Elliott one would think the team came out of that stretch ok. Look further and you’ll see how the Cowboys were exposed not only on the field but in their preparation from the top on down.
During the first three games, the Cowboys would score less than 10 points which was a franchise first. Not something you want to be first at. This came after scoring 28 or more points six straight games with Elliott. The final three games Dallas started to figure things out post-Zeke. They ripped off three straight wins while the offense found somewhat of a rhythm.
It was the stubbornness of the first set of games that led to Dak Prescott bringing to light what most were seeing:
“I mean, we … took it for granted, tried to run the same offense as if Zeke was in the game or on the team and he wasn’t. Things were different. It wasn’t the same aggressiveness, it wasn’t the same tempo and what is the word I’m looking for, demeanor, I guess.”
The game plan was never altered, the urgency to adapt wasn’t there and the team suffered for it. The staff is about as status quo as it gets. The defensive coordinator has already come out and stated he isn’t going to change anything. This shortcoming didn’t just grow out of nowhere; it started in the offseason when putting together the team.
“I think it’s an organizational flaw,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said of what took place in the aftermath of Elliott’s suspension. “I think you can blame the personnel on the field, which I think we can certainly be better. Jerry [Jones], Will [McClay] and I should meet that head-on.”
With Elliott back, the offense should look more like its old self, but that shouldn’t eliminate the defect seen in his absence going into the offseason. The last time the Cowboys were without their best player and were exposed they went into the offseason with a plan. That plan resulted in Prescott and Elliott which spearheaded the future. If Dallas wants to avoid status quo, Stephen Jones and company will have to execute a similar strategy to improve this team.
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