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Mailbag: Overlooked Factors In The Run Game?

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Could the following three situations be the real cause of Ezekiel Elliott's statistical drop? 1) O-Line injuries 2) Teams focused on stopping the run without Dak 3) Playing from behind or don't get turnovers and favorable field position to facilitate more effective runs? It sure appears to me that Zeke gets hit in the backfield on almost every carry, which means the defense is just loading up to stop him due to the three factors identified. Thoughts? — DAVID NYSTROM / LOUDON, TN

David: All of those things are good and reasonable explanations for Zeke's struggles this season. The counterargument would be that, if you're going to pay a running back $15 million per season, he ought to be good enough to overcome some of those things. And for the record: it's not the end of the world that Zeke hasn't been able to. He is a very, very good player, and I think he'll be just fine next year when his offensive line and quarterback are (hopefully) healthier. That said, it's still disappointing that he hasn't been able to shoulder more of the load this season. These are the type of expectations that go along with that kind of contract.

Jonny: Yeah, absolutely. I think the third reason you mention is most important. Zeke is most dangerous being fed with a 10-point lead. That's when he demoralizes defenses, and his defense has done him no favors this year. That being said, that implies that he's unable to make up for those issues. Perhaps a great running back is a luxury and not a foundation.

Any thoughts on Andy Dalton's plans for next season? Is there a chance he re-signs with the Cowboys? Thanks. — GUY MORRISON / LA PORTE, IN

David: It's hard to say, because quarterbacks are so unique. All it'd take is for a team to offer him a shot at a starting job, and I'd imagine he's going to take it and run with it. Fortunately for the Cowboys, I'm not convinced Dalton has been impressive enough to merit that type of contract offer. We'll have to wait and see. But if he's willing to re-sign in a backup role, I'd love to have him back. He's been as advertised, if not better, in my opinion.

Jonny: I don't think it's his plan. But I could see the Cowboys being more than open to it, and it's hard for me to think of a team who is going tell their fans they are signing him to be their starting quarterback. I don't think Dalton starting double-digit games is a plan with a very high ceiling. But if your QB is going to miss two games in the middle of the season, he'd be pretty great to have.

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