Rookies to watch during Cowboys training camp
The Dallas Cowboys rolled out their latest Super Bowl hopeful on Saturday night and if the first two drives are any indication, they need their Zeke on, which is the problem.
Alas, starting running back Ezekiel Elliott remains “holed up,” busting his butt training in the living hell that is Cabo, Mexico while his first-string teammates broke a sweat and little else on Saturday night in the first fake football game of the preseason.
Without Zeke on Saturday night, Tony Pollard started, and ran the ball four times for 16 yards. That he ran the ball but four times is telling; he’s their starter without Zeke.
A few others played the part of running back against the 49ers, but not Alfred Morris. It’s not been confirmed that the Cowboys signed Morris to a deal to celebrate the NFL’s 100-year anniversary season as a player who was there when the league actually launched.
The offensive starters played one series that ended in a field goal, and that was that.
There was a final score but ... only the gamblers care about that. (BTW: If you are betting on preseason games, you have a serious problem.)
If you insist on knowing the score, the 49ers won 17-9.
Since we are on the subject of serious problems, because it’s but Week 1 of the NFL preseason, it’s hard to call Zeke’s contract squabble with his employer much of anything. As a reminder, this issue only becomes an actual issue if he’s still in Cabo for Week 1 of the NFL regular season.
“If fans read the newspaper, they’ll see he’s in Cabo and we’re in San Francisco,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan before the game.
Look at Jerry, selling papers. God love this man.
The issue is not whether Zeke will be happy by Week 1, but whether the Dallas Cowboys can actually be all that Jerry Jones wants them to be with him as the highest paid running back in the league.
We know the Dallas Cowboys can be a good NFL team with Zeke Elliott as The Man Running With Ball.
We don’t know whether the Dallas Cowboys can advance to an NFC title game, or, heaven forbid, actually reach another Super Bowl and win one with Zeke Elliott as The Man Running With Ball.
THE PROBLEM WITH JASON GARRETT’S PLAN
The Cowboys have had the NFL’s leading rusher in three of the last five years. The last time the NFL’s leading rusher won a Super Bowl was ....? As recently as 1998, when Terrell Davis did it with the Denver Broncos.
There is virtually no NFL metric these days that says the best running back in the NFL translates into Super Bowl appearances, or Super Bowl wins.
There are plenty of numbers that say a great NFL running back will win you a lot of NFL regular-season games. Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, LeSean McCoy, Priest Holmes, Edgerrin James and a slew of other great running backs made fantasy owners thrilled, but not their NFL team owners.
They all won NFL rushing titles this century, made a lot of money, and won zero Super Bowls.
Garrett comes from the Nick Saban coaching school, which has flourished in the college level where Alabama has ruled the the entire sport since he arrived. Or at least it did until Clemson happened.
Like Saban, Garrett built his team around a strong line and running game.
While it has worked at times for Garrett and the Cowboys, there is more to be had. There is more to be done.
There is the little matter of reaching an NFC title game, something Garrett has yet to do.
The problem is the NFL virtually mandates now that in order to win a Super Bowl your best player on offense be the quarterback. The Dallas Cowboys best player on offense is their running back, and both Zeke and his agent know it.
That’s why Zeke remains in Cabo, while the rest of his team was playing their first fake game of the season on Saturday night up the coast.
There will be a solution to all of this, and it’s not Tony Pollard. Or Mike Weber. Or Alfred Morris.
The ultimate problem for the Cowboys isn’t that their best offensive player is in a contract dispute and on a beach in Cabo, but rather that their best offensive player is the running back rather than the quarterback.