LOS ANGELES – Saturday night's preseason game against the L.A. Rams offered a possible preview of the Cowboys' offense without Ezekiel Elliott for six regular-season games, pending appeal:
A heavy dose of Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris.
The Cowboys held out Elliott and several other healthy starters Saturday, the second of five preseason games. McFadden and Morris, two seasoned veterans with starting experience, combined for 11 of the offense's 16 total carries in a 13-10 loss at the L.A. Coliseum.
McFadden started the game and ran six times for 28 yards. Morris ran five times for 11 yards. Both caught one pass, too, for a total of 17 yards.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said he'd need to watch the film to gain a better evaluation of the running game. Overall, he didn't think the overall offense was efficient enough.
Moving forward, though, the Cowboys' careful acquisition of depth at running back is now more than a luxury. It's a necessity.
"We feel like we built our team the right way and we feel like we have some veteran experience – guys that have been productive in this league at the running back position," Garrett said.
McFadden now has the opportunity to seize the starting role he held for most of the 2015 season, prior to the club selecting Elliott fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. He rushed for 1,089 yards that year and believes he's ready to step in as needed.
"For me, it starts with practice," he said. "I've been getting a lot of practice reps and I feel like I've been going out there, just going out there and getting back in sync, going out there and doing it. Just trying to carry it over to the field on Sundays.
"I don't feel like I've missed a beat from (2015) even though I didn't play much last year. But I feel like I definitely get back to that status."
Morris is another former 1,000-yard rusher who has accepted a backup role behind Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader. He moved to the third running back spot last December when McFadden returned from an elbow injury that had sidelined him for most of the 2016 season.
Running backs coach Gary Brown said Elliott is feeling down "because he wants to be there for his teammates." He's eligible to participate in preseason practices and games, but a six-game suspension keeps him off the field until the end of October.
Said Brown: "I told him, 'You've got to handle your business. We will support you and hold you up. As running backs, we'll do what we need to do till you get back.'
"I think the team is built that way. I think the higher-ups did a great job of building the room that way and building our team that way. We've just got to do what we've got to do."