The Dallas Cowboys have been without Ezekiel Elliott for 3 games now and the results have been disastrous. For the past two games I was making an argument (which I will share) for why Dallas was playing bad. But now, I’ve changed my tune and we should all realize why Elliott is the driving force behind this offense.
Fans all over Cowboys nation have been divided on how important Ezekiel Elliott is to the Cowboys. Some were saying that Prescott drives the team and his game management will be important as Elliott serves out his suspension. Well, the past three games have been disastrous. Not only that, in general comparing him to Russell Wilson now seems very premature. The other side was saying how Elliott is the driving force behind this offense and without him Dallas will struggle. This seemed kind of crazy to me at first (maybe because I’m a Dak guy), but man it is holding so very true right now.
My argument for Dak for a few games was that we lost Sean Lee and we lost Tyron Smith, along with losing Elliott. Having three all pro guys out would make it difficult for any team to produce on the field. Also, against the Falcons and Eagles, Prescott was having to run for his life. This showed us the value of Smith for those two games, but against the Chargers Dak threw an egg of a game. So what has happened since Elliott’s suspension? Let’s take a look at some numbers…
First off I’m going to focus on the obvious, the team’s points per game. Ever since the Elliott was suspended in Week 10, the Dallas offense has become horrendous. If you look at the graph below you will see the team performance drop significantly.
Dallas has not been able to score over 10 points in a game since Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension. Before, they scored 25+ in the previous three games. Granted, Dallas faced off against the 49ers, Redskins, and Chiefs who aren’t known to have great quarterbacks. While the past three games they have had the unfortunate luck of facing Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, and Philip Rivers. It doesn’t help that half or 1/3rd of the offense is unable to create a threat to keep defenses honest. With Elliott, the team could run more effective play action passes, and use the ground and pound attack with force. Without Elliott, they are trying to use the same methodology, but defenses are able to stop Smith and Morris a lot easier. Defenses are also not scared of both backs. Therefore the play action passes are not getting far either. Losing this dimension of the offense has greatly affected the team’s overall ability not only to score points, but also to run the football.
If you look at the graph above you can see how the Cowboys run game really supplements the defense. With Elliott for weeks 7-9, the Cowboys not only ran the ball well but ran it almost two times better yardage wise than there opponent. Since, the Cowboys rushing yardage is either on par or worse than there opponent. Not having Zeke shows us how much we are missing the featured back in Jason Garrett/Scott Linehan’s offense. By having the defense on the field more, you can see the up tick in not only yards given up but also time of possession.
Another area where the offense is struggling is in time of possession. Below is a graph that will show how much different it is with and without Elliott.
With Ezekiel Elliott on the field, the Cowboys were able to hold the ball for almost 2+ minutes more than the opponent. A general assumption would be that this 2 minutes shouldn’t make much of a difference. In reality, it can be the difference in having 1-3 possessions. Also, by keeping the ball longer, the defense was able to stay more fresh later in the game. By staying fresh longer, they are able to make more plays versus being fatigued and getting gashed by the pass or the run. Below you can see the difference in a rested defense versus a tired defense.
By not having Elliott on offense is hurting the team on both sides of the ball. It will be important for Dallas to stop the bleeding so they have a shot at a wildcard berth. The truth is going to be harder to swallow, but sadly this might not be a season where our Cowboys make it to the post season.