The Dallas Cowboys offensive line deserves Ezekiel Elliott


The Dallas Cowboys drafted Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott to finally feature a player that can take full advantage of their dominate offensive line.

The Dallas Cowboys have spent the past five years building their offensive line. The Cowboys front office used three out of their last six first round draft picks on O-lineman. And they have three Pro Bowlers to show for it in center Travis Frederick, left tackle Tyron Smith and guard Zack Martin.

With this trio of All-Pros along the offensive line, the Cowboys ran through their opponents in 2014, posting a 12-4 season ending record, while going undefeated on the road and winning their first playoff game in five years. Their starting running back at the time, DeMarco Murray, also led the league in rushing with 1,845 yards.

The following offseason, Murray headed out of town via free agency and the Cowboys believed they could still run the ball effectively without him. Dallas’ plan was to no longer feature one running back in their offense as the did with Murray the year before, who carried the ball a league leading 392 times.

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Instead, the Cowboys brain trust decided to try a running-back by committee approach. They figured any runner worth his salt could find success behind the team’s heavily-invested in offensive line. So, Dallas started the season with running backs Joseph Randle, Christine Michael and Darren McFadden as their three-headed monster in the backfield.

But that three-headed monster turned out to be more like a fluffy kitten and by mid-November both Randle and Michael were not even on the roster anymore. Luckily for Dallas, McFadden emerged as their primary rusher. And although he only started a total of 10 games, he was able to post 1,089 rushing yards, the fourth highest rushing total in the NFL last season.

Despite McFadden’s career resurgence, his performance alone was not enough for the Cowboys to avoid a 4-12 season ending record due to injuries suffered by the team’s top two players, quarterback Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. But that terrible outcome did afford the Cowboys the fourth overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft.

And many believed the Cowboys would use that high selection to draft an impact player that could help their porous defense. Instead, Dallas drafted Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Although confusing at first, the Elliott pick seems more logical when you consider what the Cowboys offensive line was able to do last season with marginal talent in the backfield.

"“The more I reviewed the Cowboys’ 2015 performance, the more I understood why they were willing to eschew conventional wisdom by taking a running back—Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott—in the top five of the draft,” wrote Mike Renner, senior analyst for Pro Football Focus. “[The offensive line] gave their backs a clean run to the safety-level far too often to only average 4.7 yards per carry as a team. Getting a running back who combines vision with elusiveness and power will be a huge boon for the Cowboys’ offense. The scary thing is that, with four starters at 25 years of age or younger, the unit could realistically be even better in 2016.”"

With Elliott in the backfield, many analysts are now predicting that the Cowboys will win the NFC East. I’m not sure they would be doing the same if Dallas had opted to draft a defender fourth overall and were handing off to a 29-year old McFadden and free agent running back Alfred Morris.

Still, the Cowboys do have the best offensive line in football. And now Dallas also has the best running back in the draft to run behind them. And frankly, these talented lineman deserve to have a player like Ezekiel Elliott that can take advantage of the opportunities they provide.

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