With running back Ezekiel Elliott gone for the foreseeable future due to suspension, will a lead back emerge during his absence?
On Thursday, the United State 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied the emergency injunction request submitted by the NFL Players Association on behalf of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Simply stated, the ruling essentially reinstates Elliott’s suspension effective immediately.
The 2nd Circuit Court has expedited Elliott’s appeal hearing to December 1. With no court dates scheduled before then, Elliott is assured to miss at least the next four games starting this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. And if the appeal hearing on December 1st does not fall in Elliott’s favor he will most likely be serving the full six game suspension.
Elliott’s absence on the field will undoubtedly be felt in more ways than one. But how do the Cowboys move forward without one of their most important offensive pieces? They are hoping the answer already lies on their roster.
The NFL’s domestic violence investigation into Elliott has been going on for more than a year. The one bright spot about the length of the investigation is it gave the Cowboys ample time to prepare for this potential outcome. Their preparations and fear of this outcome were clear this year when they decided to keep four running backs on their 53-man roster.
Coach Jason Garrett has stated that the Cowboys will ride the “hot hand” at running back during Elliott’s absence. Could the hot hand ultimately end up being former undrafted free agent Rod Smith? Smith has an undeniable combination of size and speed that was on display during the preseason in which he totaled 130 yards on 29 carries (4.5 yards per carry) and 57 yards receiving on 7 receptions.
The Cowboys obviously like what they have seen from Smith due to keeping him on the 53-man roster and also keeping him active on their 46-man roster come Sundays. That same 46-man
roster has seen fellow running back Darren McFadden be a healthy scratch for practically the whole season. This is not a coincidence as the Cowboys see Smith as bringing a lot more to the team on Sundays including special teams play.
The Cowboys appear to be ready to give former Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris the first shot at filling Elliott’s void. If this season is any indicator thus far, Morris will have no trouble finding success in this offense as he has accumulated 116 yards on just 14 carries (8.3 yards per carry).
The Dallas Cowboys offense will certainly look and feel different without Ezekiel Elliott. However, there are still viable options on their roster to keep the offense producing at a high level. Could Elliott’s suspension be a coming out party for Rod Smith? I believe the Cowboys are very intrigued to finally see what they may have in Smith.