Cowboys Matchup: Ezekiel Elliot is a Reminder of Their No. 1 Issue on Offense

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Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys (Credits: Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Dallas Cowboys have outscored their 2023 opponents 86-38, thanks to the boosts from their defense and special teams.

And yet, their first loss of the season was favored by double digits against Arizona Cardinals – the Cowboy’s top offensive concern – their red-zone production.

The Cowboys are very good at getting to the red zone, tying the Chiefs with a league-best 18 trips. Success, on the other hand, was proven quite difficult. The Cowboys rank 27th in the red-zone success rate, converting on just 40% (6 of 15) touchdowns.

That number is still worse over the last two weeks when 11 opportunities have yielded just three touchdowns. It’s a schematic weakness that Dallas is well aware of and one the team says it will harp on extra this week in practice.

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys (Credits: Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Jones comments about switching to defense in red zone

“We’ve been down there ample times to execute it,” team owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “When you get in that red zone, that’s the defensive time. They have the edge, and they have the shorter field.”

“Do we have the players to get the ball in there? Unquestionably, we have the players. Can we execute better? You can imagine what a focus point it is for our team.”

“While that is something to note, it’s not a long-range concern.”

If the Cowboys struggle in the red zone against the New York Jets and Cardinals, then expect them to fall harder in the next two weeks against New England Patriots defense and following to the San Francisco 49ers.

Against the Patriots, the Cowboys will also meet a clear reminder of why they’ve fallen so quickly in the red zone: the loss of running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Dallas released Elliott in March. The Patriots signed him for training camp. The Cowboys will likely welcome their 2016 fourth overall pick to his seven-year home with a tribute, Jones saying, “I don’t want to blow a surprise, and that’s a good enough answer for you.”

Elliott’s production was underrated. Touchdowns are worth six points, no matter how far out they arrive. Elliott collected 12 touchdowns each of the last two seasons. All 24 touchdowns came in the red zone.

The Cowboys ranked first in red-zone efficiency last season, converting on a whopping 71.43% of attempts. The prior year, they ranked sixth with a 63.08% success rate.

Ezekiel Elliot
Ezekiel Elliot (Credits: Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)

Is the absence 0f Elliot the reason the Cowboys are slipping in the red zone?

Jones quickly countered criticism for personnel moves and dismissed Elliott’s absence as a limiting factor in the red zone.

“Zeke’s unique physicalness is always nice to have, to be trite about it,” Jones said. “We think about ‘physical’ on short yardage and probably should. But I do not think that physicalness from the running back is contributing to us not getting in the end zone.”

The Cowboys need more from quarterback Dak Prescott, whose red-zone performance against the Cardinals included a costly interception. Prescott knows he also needs to use his legs more in the red zone, a tactic that’s generated 26 touchdowns in his career.

Cowboys will look to make defenses respect his escapability and lighten coverage on his targets against the Patriots. That’s what Jones will be expecting from McCarthy, whose play calls he’s overwhelmingly positive.

“I am very pleased with the prospects of going from here and what our potential is to correct some of the negatives you saw out there,” said Jones.

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By Richard

All in one crazy for sports, especially baseball.

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