Mac Engel

Cowboys are Zeke Elliott’s team, DFW is Zeke’s town

Jimmy Johnson’s assertion that the Dallas Cowboys must give the starting quarterback job back to Tony Romo when he is ready is premature.

The Cowboys are the NFL’s version of the University of Alabama, which makes sense considering Jason Garrett previously worked for Tide coach Nick Saban.

The NFL is all about the quarterback, and Romo makes the most money, but the Dallas Cowboys are not a QB-centric team.

The Cowboys are, just like 2014, a running back/offensive line team — which is the way the head coach wants it.

The local football team dispatched the pride of TCU, Andy Dalton, and the Cincinnati Bengals 28-14 on Sunday at Jerry’s back yard with embarrassing ease. The Dallas Cowboys are 4-1.

The Dallas Cowboys, without Tony Romo, are 4-1. They are two points away from being 5-0.

They lead the NFC East, and are easily the most surprising team in football, behind only the Minnesota Vikings.

We all love us The Dak Knight, and maybe Jimmy is right in that the Cowboys can’t win big unless Romo is slinging it, but this is Zeke’s team more than Dez Bryant’s or Romo’s. This is a Zeke town.

Football has been tricked up beyond comprehension, but the old adage that if you can block you can win still holds true. The Cowboys’ offensive line is easily the best in football, the quarterback is good enough to keep a defense honest, and the man loving all of this time and space is the best offensive rookie in the NFL.

Jerry Jones and crew deserve ample flogging for their plethora of personnel decisions — check the second round of the draft — but they have hit on that offensive line and Zeke in such a way it makes them formidable without a proven quarterback.

In five games this season, Zeke has rushed for 546 yards with five touchdowns and averages a gaudy 5 yards per carry. Those are Ohio State-like figures in the NFL.

Zeke’s rushing total is the most ever by a Cowboys rookie, eclipsing the figures amassed by bums named Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith. Mr. Elliott’s total is the fourth most by an NFL rookie after five games.

Imagine how many more yards he could have if he had not rookie-panicked in Week 1 against the New York Giants when he ran for just 51 yards.

“If you watch film from Week 1 to now it’s a different back,” Elliott said. “It’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Considering the Cowboys have invested first-round picks in the starting running back and three starting offensive linemen, he is right — this is how it is supposed to be.

Your dog, however, could tell you the Cowboys have done a lot of things that are “supposed to be” and often are not.

Against the Bengals, which had not allowed a rushing touchdown this season, it was how it was supposed to be from the opening kick. Elliott ran the ball four times for 42 yards on the opening drive and ended it with his 13-yard scoring run.

The Cowboys had physically whipped the Bengals to the point of submission, and the cats from Cincy looked defeated.

All told, the Cowboys’ offensive line blew apart opposing defensive tackle Geno Atkins and the Bengals’ D-line to the tune of 29 carries for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

“We were playing some good ball,” guard Ron Leary said. “It was the first day we were all together since ’14.”

Indeed — Sunday was the first game since the 2014 season that linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Leary and Doug Free were back together. Even though Leary began the season behind La’el Collins, there is no drop-off for a line that is the secret service of this team.

“They are really the heart of this offense,” said Prescott who threw for 227 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. “We go as they go, and I think they know that.”

They do. If a team invests that many first-round picks and money in one area, they better be good. And they are.

The first play of the second half for the Cowboys’ offense was the best play all day — a simple handoff up the middle for Zeke.

“I didn’t know he was that fast,” Leary said.

He apparently is. Sixty yards later, Zeke had another touchdown run and the Cowboys led 28-0.

“It looked beautiful,” Elliott said. “All I could do was turn on the jets.”

With all due respect to the NFL’s leading rusher from the 2014 Dallas Cowboys, DeMarco Murray, it was that Zeke speed that left the Cowboys wanting more from their running game during that 12-4, NFC East title-season.

It was the only knock on DeMarco — that he left a few yards on the field. Some of it was he did not possess the God-given speed to be able to gain separation against a hungry jaguar.

Only young legs can do that; at 21 Zeke is in that area of his life as a running back when he can outrun everything, save for knowing when not to go into weed shops in Seattle. If he can “trust the tracks,” as running back Alfred Morris says, it will be there.

Of course, some of the credit goes back to the quarterback. This offense might work well with a bus driver, but it does not thrive if opposing defenses don’t take the QB seriously. We saw what that looks like last year when “Brandon Cassel” mucked it up for the majority of the season.

Prescott is not refined, but he can make real NFL throws so defenders must honor him. That helps open holes.

Maybe Jimmy Johnson is right in that if the Cowboys want to win big Romo must start for this team to contend for a Super Bowl. But what the Cowboys built is the rare NFL team that can actually win without a big-play quarterback.

The big plays are coming from the offensive line, and a rookie running back who owns this town.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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