FRISCO, Texas – Three quick topics as the 3-0 Cowboys get set for a rematch of last year's low-scoring slugfest against the New Orleans Saints:
- Zeke & T.P.
- Where's Alvin?
Ezekiel Elliott's workload his first three seasons wasn't just heavy. It was historic.
That's why Tony Pollard's development is so critical for Elliott throughout a long season.
There's no question Elliott and the run game remains the offense's centerpiece. (The Cowboys still have more rush than pass attempts through four games.) There's no question he's durable. (Now in his fourth season, he has never missed a start due to injury.)
But if Pollard can continue earning a role that spells the All-Pro back incrementally more than past years, imagine how much fresher Elliott could be in December and January.
Just consider Elliott's workload in 2016-18. According to Pro Football Reference, he's one of five running backs in NFL history with at least 850 carries and 130 catches in his first three seasons.
Here's how it breaks down:
LaDainian Tomlinson: 1,024 carries, 238 catches =1,262 total touches (48 games)
Emmitt Smith: 979 carries, 132 catches = 1,111 total touches (48 games)
Chris Johnson: 925 carries, 137 catches = 1,062 total touches (47 games)
Edgerrin James: 907 carries, 149 catches = 1,056 total touches (38 games)
Ezekiel Elliott: 868 carries, 135 catches = 1,003 total touches (40 games)
Elliott has led in the league in rushing yards, and carries, two of the last three years. He still managed to rank 10th in both categories in 2017 (242 for 983) despite a six-game suspension.
Forget Karl Malone. Zeke is pro football's Mailman.
Now, Pollard's week-to-week role is still being cultivated. But the Cowboys showed faith last Sunday that he could help salt away the game. He dominated the offense's final drive: five carries, including a 16-yard touchdown run, on the five-play series.
"It's us taking care of it together," Elliott said afterward. "It's going to definitely pay off."
offensive 'adjustments' are tough to quantify.
Head coach Jason Garrett was right on two fronts in his Monday press conference. More than anything, the offense executed better in the second half against the Dolphins. And, modifications take place throughout the game, even if quarterback Dak Prescott's 22-for-22 third-quarter streak would indicate the offense does all their talking in the locker room at halftime.
That said, maybe the most important point is the offense has the ability to adjust their attack on the fly.
This group is so versatile, and not just because it has a full complement of running backs and receivers. There's versatility within each position group. They've got backs who can catch. They've got receivers who can play multiple spots. They've got tight ends who can run receiver routes. Prescott has the league's highest completion percentage (74.5) and his mobility is such a threat, particularly in the red zone.
That gives the offense a lot of options if one particular thing isn't clicking.
"We have such a unique style, different than a lot of teams, that every week you don't really know how they're going to try to attack you," tight end Jason Witten said. "And so you have to kind of adapt as the game is unfolding. I think our staff's done a good job of that. Everybody talks about it being a young offensive staff, but I think they've done a good job of, 'OK, here's how they're trying to attack us this week.' Especially Miami, because he (Dolphins head coach Brian Flores) can do a lot of different things."
I Have No Idea…
what else Alvin Kamara could have done for the Saints last Sunday.
New Orleans' all-purpose running back played 36 of 52 snaps against the Cowboys last November. Now that Mark Ingram is in Baltimore, Kamara looks like the featured back. He's actually much more than that.
The Saints gave Kamara the ball 25 times in their impressive road win at Seattle – a major statement a week after losing Drew Brees (thumb) for several weeks. Kamara played all but eight snaps and had 161 total yards with two touchdowns: one rushing, one receiving. As usual, he lined up pretty much everywhere: in the backfield, out wide, in the slot as part of a bunch set.
The Cowboys did an outstanding job against him last time, and once again, they'll have to account for him on every play.