Ezekiel Elliott has been handed a six-game suspension by the NFL, the league announced on Friday to conclude its year-long investigation into domestic violence allegations made against Elliott in July 2016.
Elliott is expected to appeal the suspension and could pursue other legal options as well.
For the time being, though, the Cowboys have to prepare for life without Elliott. It’s a scary thought considering Elliott is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball and he led the league in rushing as a rookie a season ago.
But the Cowboys have expressed all along that they feel good about their running back depth.
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Darren McFadden, who turns 30 later this month, would expected to get the bulk of the carries in place of Elliott. McFadden had the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL two seasons ago when he finished with 1,089 yards on 239 carries in 2015.
McFadden is second on the depth chart and the coaching staff likes his professional approach to the game. McFadden, though, only played three games a season ago after fracturing his elbow before training camp. He had 24 carries for 87 yards last season.
“I’m out here preparing every day just like I’m the No. 1 guy,” McFadden said early in camp. “Whenever my number is called, I’m definitely going to be ready.”
Veteran Alfred Morris has had a similar approach. Morris started his career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Washington Redskins. He accepted a reduced role with the Cowboys last season, rushing for 243 yards on 69 carries in 14 games.
Morris is another option the Cowboys will look at to help fill the void.
“I approach every day like I’m the starter because you never know what’s going to happen on any given day,” Morris said. “I don’t have to worry about it because it’s out of my control.”
The Cowboys have also liked what they’ve seen from Rod Smith, who had 18 carries for 64 yards in the Hall of Fame game last week. Veteran Ronnie Hillman is also on the roster for the Cowboys.
None of them are as good of options of Elliott, of course. But it isn’t as steep of a drop off as it may seem.