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Dallas Ground Game Is Close To Finding Its Feet


FRISCO, Texas – It's not here yet, but it's coming.

Ask around the Cowboys' locker room, and that's the line of thinking about their vaunted run game. Dallas is currently ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing offense, with 116 yards per game.

It's a respectable number, but not a great one. The Cowboys upped their total a significant margin between Weeks 1 and 2, improving from 94 yards to 138. But for an offense that's used to running for 140, 150, even 160 yards per game, it could be better.

"I think we're close. Looking at the tape, I think – although we were better, I think we still left some yards out there," said Zack Martin. "But we're getting there. We're getting better every week, and that's what you want to see."

There's no way around it – it's been tough sledding in the first two weeks of the season. That's to be expected, as the Cowboys were confident that opponents would key on Ezekiel Elliott until the passing game established itself.

That has played out to this point, with Elliott running for 69 yards against Carolina and 78 against New York. It has to be encouraging, though, that when the chips were down in the fourth quarter of last week's game, the Cowboys ran for 48 of their 138-yard total – including five carries for 29 yards and a touchdown from Elliott.

"I think that's what we're getting to," Elliott said. "When we play physical from the first to the third quarter, those defensive guys are going to be wore down in the fourth quarter."

One of those fourth quarter carries was a 19-yard gain, which has been Elliott's best run by a long margin. But as the Cowboys get into the flow of the regular season, Elliott said he can feel the better gains coming.

"I think we're really close to where we need to be," he said. "We're just one block away from hitting some big ones, so we've just got to keep working, keep staying disciplined, stay focused and keep grinding."

If you buy into trends, perhaps Elliott's breakout could come this weekend in Seattle. The Seahawks were solid against Chicago's running backs on Monday night, but they were gashed for 146 rushing yards by Denver in Week 1. Their run defense is 23rd in the league, allowing 116 yards per game.

'On top of that, Elliott has a short history of finding his feet in Week 3. As a rookie, he plodded for 51 yards and 83 yards in his first two outings, before exploding for 140 yards and a touchdown against Chicago.

Last season, he bounced back from a miserable, eight-yard outing in Week 2 to run for 80 yards and his first touchdown of the season in Week 3 against Arizona.

Even if that's encouraging, it'd be a mistake to just assume the same will happen against the Seahawks. Regardless of their 0-2 start and regardless of their losses on defense, they'll still be putting talent on the field – especially if starting linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright can return from injury.

"They definitely play the same way," Elliott said. "They still have a bunch of big names over there, and they're still very talented."

It should be an intriguing challenge. For such a talented run game, it's another step in getting where they want to be.

"We definitely made strides from the first week, but we still have a lot to improve on," Elliott said.