The Dallas Cowboys will be relying on quarterback Dak Prescott should the NFL suspend running back Ezekiel Elliott for any amount of time.
Rumors have recently been posted that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott could soon be expecting a two-day suspension from the NFL. Assuming this does happen, the next question becomes how well will the team perform in his absence?
Based on the team’s current roster, running backs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris would likely split the distribution of carries. However, neither player is as effective as Elliott in the running game based on their 2016 numbers (3.6 and 3.5 YPC, respectively, vs. Elliott’s 5.1).
The Dallas Cowboys last season ran the ball more often than any other team in the league (49.4%). Without Elliott in the backfield, it stands to reason the Cowboys in the first two games will pass more to provide opportunities to their other offensive play makers.
This is where quarterback Dak Prescott comes in. Prescott is coming off a fantastic rookie season where he was asked to protect the ball and allow the running game to be a major part of the offense. The all-star cast surrounding him, which included five players selected to the Pro Bowl, helped ease his transition in the NFL.
His talented teammates have led the media to question whether his reputation has been over-inflated. Just recently, NFL analyst Bucky Brooks suggested in an article that Prescott’s fortunate landing in Dallas was a reason why fans shouldn’t jump the gun in suggesting he’s more than a “system guy” (despite being ranked as the 14th best player in the NFL by his peers).
Should Elliott get suspended, Prescott will have the opportunity to prove to naysayers that he can effectively lead the team to victory without having an All-Pro running back to distract defenses.
The teammates around him will likely be nearly identical to those surrounding former Dallas quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel in 2015. Those quarterbacks, who were seasoned veterans, proved that not every quarterback could succeed on the Cowboys’ offense (both combined to win one game out of ten). Success by Prescott would prove he’s more than just a product of his teammates.
Unfortunately for the team, the Cowboys first two opponents have stingy defenses. The New York Giants and Denver Broncos both ranked in the top ten in fewest yards allowed per game last season.
Prescott’s first sub-par showing against the New York Giants can be attributed towards it being his first game in the NFL. However, he was equally underwhelming against them in week 13 when he had his first multi-interception game and completed less than 50% of his passes in a 7-10 loss.
The Denver Broncos have had the number one passing defense in the NFL for the past two seasons. They allowed a quarterback rating of 69.7 (by far the worst in the NFL; in 2nd was the New York Giants at 75.8).
It will be a challenge for Prescott to perform well against these quality defensive units. However, if he does, it will be hard for any analyst to suggest that he should not be listed among the top performing quarterbacks in the NFL.