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Mailbag: State Of The Team; Zeke's Workload

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Is it really so surprising that this team is 3-5? At the start of the season, most folks picked them to finish 8-8 or 9-7 at best. I've come to the realization this franchise has been rebuilding this team over the last 3 seasons but trying to still be relevant while doing so. Do you believe they are a real contender? - ELLIOTT APONTE / HARTFORD, CT

Bryan:I am like you and said at the start of the season that they were not going to make the playoffs. I thought there would be some issues that they would have to work through in order to make the playoffs and that has come true. Where I missed the evaluation of this current squad is with the offensive line. No one saw the health issues of Travis Frederick, and I knew that Connor Williams was going to struggle with power the first season. But to see La'el Collins and Tyron Smith slip is a mystery. I like the change at offensive line coach and the addition of Amari Cooper but I think the damage has been done. Losses to Houston, Washington and Tennessee don't help my confidence at all.

Rob:Before training camp I picked them to go to the playoffs based on the strength of the offensive line. Clearly, they've been in a state of flux this season. It's hard to say the franchise in a clear rebuild with the investments they've made up front. You don't make the Amari Cooper trade unless you believe you can win now, and believe it or not, this division is still up for grabs. But you're right, this is a very young team overall that hasn't found consistency game to game.

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With Zeke only toting the rock 17 times in this week's loss, can we see a pattern of lack of carries and lack of offensive success? What happened to the power run and play-action game? - J.M. SMITH / ST. CHARLES, MD

Bryan:With the way that Ezekiel Elliott started out I thought he was going to have a monster game. When the Titans held the ball for almost 9 minutes, it appeared that the Cowboys went away from that plan of running Elliott and I thought that was a mistake. I don't like how they always run the ball on first down, but there should have been a better mix as the game went along because you're right: When this team runs the ball successfully the offense is better overall. 

Rob: Good question, but you have to look at what happened after halftime. Elliott had 12 carries for 45 yards in the first half and 96 all-purpose yards. He looked well on his way to being heavily involved. The offense only got four drives in the second half, and the first three were wrecked by penalties and sacks. The last drive was hurry-up down 14 points. The Titans did a good job of burning clock, sustaining drives and finishing with scores.

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