Is the primary reason for the Dallas Cowboys rushing woes actually second-year running back Ezekiel Elliott and not their shuffled offensive line?
Through the first three games of the 2017 NFL regular season, the Dallas Cowboys have rushed for a total of 268 yards. Second-year running back Ezekiel Elliott is responsible for 192 of those rushing yards on 55 carries. Zeke is currently averaging 3.5 yards per carry and the Cowboys rank 22nd in the league in rushing offense.
Through the first three games of the 2016 NFL regular season, the Cowboys rushed for a total of 402 yards. As a rookie, Elliott recorded for 274 rushing yards on 71 carries. That was an average 3.86 yards per carry. Zeke ended last season averaging 5.1 yards per attempt, proving that he vastly improved as his first season wore on. And Dallas ended the year as the second best rushing offense in the NFL.
So what is the primary reason for the Cowboys rushing woes in 2017? Most point to Dallas’ revamped offensive line, which features two new starters. In order to replace starting right tackle Doug Free (retired) and left guard Ronald Leary (free agency), the Cowboys reshuffled their deck a bit.
Dallas shifted third year lineman La’el Collins to right tackle after he had started at left guard for two seasons. Then the Cowboys earmarked tackle Chaz Green to start in place of Collins and Leary at the now vacant left guard spot. It is a bit of a head scratching move that the team seems more than willing to see through, despite any growing pains.
The point being rarely does Elliott himself get blamed for the Cowboys sluggish rushing attack as it’s presumed that the 22-year old rusher would simply run through the holes if the offensive line was able to open them.
But according to one Cowboys insider, Dallas’ low rushing totals have more to do with Elliott than the new look offensive line.
"“Chaz Green has not been the problem with what’s going on with this offense line,” responded football analyst Bryan Broaddus to a mailbag question on the team’s official website. “Your problem is that the running back hasn’t made as many tacklers miss as he did last season. You saw what happened on his 30 yard run — he made an unblocked man miss and they were off to the races. They need more of that from the back.”"
With the Cowboys offensive line still building chemistry, the success of their running game will likely be determined more by just how much Elliott can created for himself rather than what his line can open up for him.
With a suspension looming over him along with his myriad of off-the-field issues, Ezekiel Elliott already has a lot on his plate. Well, move over mashed potatoes! Now it appears the Cowboys success on the ground may be more determined by just how much Zeke can “feed” himself when his offensive line struggles.