Ezekiel Elliott as good as advertised
The Cowboys’ hopes of making a 2016 playoff run rest squarely on the shoulders of their offense. Against arguably the NFL’s best defense in Seattle Thursday night, Dallas had several positives.
Here are my five offensive takeaways from the Cowboys’ third preseason game, a 27 17 loss to the Seahawks.
1.) We start with the bad. Three plays into the game, Tony Romo was tackled awkwardly from behind by Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril. Romo immediately grabbed his back and remained on the ground in pain while he was surrounded by the team’s medical staff. It appears the Cowboys dodged a major bullet as Romo was warming up on the sideline shortly after, trying to talk Jason Garrett into allowing him to return. Garrett wasn’t having it. Romo’s night was over.
"His back was bothering him a little bit after that play," Garrett said. "We don’t think it’s a serious thing, and we just felt better keeping him out."
During the television broadcast on CBS 11, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he held his breath when his franchise QB was on the turf.
"I was just in shock," Jones said. "I had my mind on, ‘Come on, Tony, get up.’ Said a few prayers right there."
2.) Rookie QB Dak Prescott didn’t match his ridiculous stats from his first two preseason performances, but he was again impressive against the best defense he’s faced. Prescott played nearly three quarters, completing 17 of 23 passes for 116 yards, 1 TD and a 99.2 passer rating. His lone touchdown was on an underthrown ball that Jason Witten hauled in over a defender. Prescott nearly had a second TD pass but a deep ball was knocked out of the hands of Terrance Williams at the last second.
Prescott especially looked good late in the first half, running the two minute drill. Again, against an excellent Seattle defense, Prescott was able to get Dan Bailey in range for a 40 yard field goal to tie the game, 10 10, heading into halftime.
"He comes in and shows great poise," Witten said of Prescott. "He trusts his players, and he trusts the system. [Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan] does a great job with him. The situation and circumstances are not too big for him."
In three preseason games, Prescott has now completed 39 of his 50 passes without a turnover.
3.) Ezekiel Elliott was as good as advertised. The fourth overall pick apparently doesn’t need much practice to look like the standout player he was at Ohio State. Elliott missed most of training camp in California working his way back from a strained hamstring. In his preseason debut Thursday night, Elliott carried seven times for 49 yards. He looked particularly good at getting to the corner and quickly cutting up field. His blocking ability and physicality as a runner were also on display in his limited playing time.
"It felt great to finally get out there in a full speed game against somebody that’s not our own team," Elliott said. "It was great to get behind that offensive line, get that game feel, get my first real reps as a pro football player."
4.) The Cowboys running game was impressive beyond just Zeke and the starting offensive line. The Seahawks are known for having one of the league’s top run defenses. But along with Elliott’s contributions, rookie Darius Jackson carried five times for 30 yards as the team totaled 114 yards on 20 carries. Bottom line, Elliott, Jackson, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, Alfred Morris, whoever else you want to add will likely have success if called upon to run behind the Cowboys’ outstanding O line.
5.) Plenty of receiving options. With Dez Bryant back in Dallas recovering from a concussion he suffered this week in practice, the Cowboys did a good job getting many of their other receivers involved. Cole Beasley led the group with four catches for 30 yards. Brice Butler caught two passes for 24 yards while filling in for Bryant. The Cowboys will likely keep five receivers on their 53 man roster. My prediction is Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Butler and Lucky Whitehead. If all are healthy, that’s a strong group to go along with an elite O line and talented group of backs.