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Mailbag: Zeke's Start Compared To Emmitt's?

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After four seasons, how do Zeke's rushing and receiving numbers match up to Emmitt's first four years?— WALTER DE BELL / TROY, NY

Rob: Here are the regular-season numbers. Smith (in 62 games): 1,262 carries for 5,699 yards (4.5 average) and 60 touchdowns, along with 189 catches for 1,235 yards and 3 touchdowns. Elliott (in 56 games): 1,169 carries for 5,405 yards (4.6 average) and 60 touchdowns, along with 189 catches for 1,619 yards and 8 touchdowns. Smith is the best ever, but this illustrates how special Elliott's first four seasons have been. Pretty comparable from a statistical standpoint.

Jonny: The two players are comparable through their first four seasons. Smith had just shy of 100 more carries than Zeke does currently. He also had about 300 more yards and 10 more rushing touchdowns (though Zeke has five more receiving touchdowns than Smith had). It's important to remember that the game was far more run-heavy in the early '90s, so it's probably unfair to expect Zeke to ever catch up to Smith, considering Dak Prescott is going to be throwing the ball constantly. That said, in his fifth season, Smith ran for 21 touchdowns and the Cowboys made it to the NFC Championship. I'm sure the Cowboys would enjoy those kinds of results from their franchise running back this season.

So much has been made of versatile defensive players, but I look at the offense in the same light. Every starter in the 11 package, including running backs, could move to a different position pre-snap and perform. Running backs and tight ends in the slot or outside. Jet sweeps and screens by anyone. Any player can get the ball anywhere on the field. What scheme could cause a problem for that style of offense?— RONALD TIDWELL

Rob: I wouldn't say every skill position is interchangeable, but I get your point. Elliott and Tony Pollard can help in the passing game. Jarwin is a field stretcher, though they'll probably need him to work the middle of the field more like Jason Witten used to do. And head coach Mike McCarthy believes his top three receivers (Cooper, Gallup, Lamb) can play every wideout spot. There won't be as much schematic change on offense as defense, but Kellen Moore's group does have a lot of versatility. The defense that can slow them down? As always, it's the one that can get pressure with only four and play more coverage.

Jonny: If the Cowboys can truly be as versatile as you suggest then I'm not sure there is a defensive scheme that can successfully contain that. The issue would be whether they try to do too much. Clever play calling is rarely disrupted by a game plan as much as an offense making mistakes. I think you're right that McCarthy will identify particularly versatile players who line up in multiple areas (Randall Cobb was that guy for him in Green Bay). But you also want to just establish rhythm with certain players in established roles. Could Zeke line up anywhere? Probably. But if other players are keeping the defense on its toes and Zeke is rushing for over 100 out of the backfield maybe it's not necessary to mix it up. We'll see.

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