Sullivan: Zeke Improving But Faces Tough Test, Stopping Green, More

Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

  • The last couple of weeks, I've mostly avoided social media. I just don't grasp the focus, the questions, the concerns of so many on there. Maybe they just want their question answered; that's really the only explanation I have come up with.
  • Who cares about the 2017 NFL Draft and what position the Cowboys should focus on? Why does it matter here and now when Tony Romo is going to be healthy enough to return? Ditto for Orlando Scandrick, especially with the way rookie Antonio Brown has been playing.
  • Is early-October really the time to be stressed about Zack Martin's contract extension or the salary cap in general? And come on, does anyone honestly think Jason Garrett is going to trot out safety Jeff Heath to kick field goals if Dan Bailey is unable to play on Sunday? Do you really think they aren't going to sign a legitimate NFL kicker?
  • The list goes on and on. For me, there's another topic of much more interest. As of Sunday, the Cowboys are going to play two football games in eight days, both against what appear to be top-10 teams. I've made this point before, obviously to no avail, but NFL teams play 16 regular-season games, which over 365 days, comes out to one game every 23 days. Yet, the fans seem to spend more time focused on everything else imaginable besides the actual games.
  • When the sun sets on Sunday, Oct. 16, the Cowboys have a chance at being 5-1 heading into the bye week. They could also be 4-2 or 3-3. I'm really not sure anyone is exactly certain of how good this team is. It's a lot like back in 2014 when Dallas started 4-1 and still no one really knew the deal. Then they went to Seattle in Week 6 and, whoa, look what happened.
  • The Bengals are 2-2, with losses to Pittsburgh and Denver, two of the league's elite. The line is a pick 'em, meaning it's even, no point spread for the non-gambling folks out there. Appears that Tyron Smith is going to play, at least he's headed in that direction, which is significant. Cincinnati has a strong run defense, as in, hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown yet or a run of longer than 16 yards through four games. Also, Seattle's Thomas Rawls is the last back to crack the century mark against the Bengals, that being exactly a calendar year ago, in Week 5 of 2015.
  • Now, I'm not saying the Cowboys shouldn't run. They should. Would love to see Zeke Elliott with 25 touches. Just can't envision the kind of running lanes he has been seeing the last two weeks. There's no more telling signal of where a rookie at any position is headed short- and long-term than week-to-week improvement and Zeke has improved in each of his four games thus far. If we're talking about single-game grades, on a scale of 1-100, let's say 65, 78, 86 and 90. So if he puts up a 93-94, with the line doing their part, well, I'm nodding my head writing this.
  • One of the more underappreciated defensive tackles of the last decade is Cincinnati's Geno Atkins. Took a year to develop after being a fourth-round pick in 2010, but since then he's earned four Pro Bowl nods, two All-Pro teams, including last season, and 45.5 career sacks. More so, he's like Haloti Ngata was all those years for Baltimore where he absolutely, positively, without exception needed multiple blockers on every snap.
  • Even with the one-game home winning streak (not sure one game equates a streak), the Cowboys are 6-14 in their last 20 regular-season games at AT&T Stadium. That is really unfathomable.
  • Including the preseason, Dak Prescott has gone 181 passing attempts without an interception. Sure, there's a little luck involved, a few of those balls could have, maybe should have, been picked off. In terms of starting a career, regular-season only, Dak is currently tied for second with Warren Moon with 131 consecutive pass attempts, trailing just Tom Brady at 162. Have a feeling we're going to be hearing Brady's name a lot later this month for other reasons, but there's no reason to start those debates before Romo is healthy and ready to return.
  • I know it's not this simple, honestly, I do. Still, we hear all the time about defenses taking away a single player from the offense and more or less saying, yeah, we're willing to lose, but someone else has to beat us. This should be that sort of game plan with A.J. Green. In its last 20 regular-season games, Cincinnati is 14-6. In those wins, Green is averaging 6.3 catches and 94 yards with 10 touchdowns catches. In the losses, he's averaging 5.0 grabs for 75 yards with two scores. And this year, he's 22-353-2 in the two wins and 10-115-0 in the defeats. Stop Green and, more or less, stop that offense.
  • Doesn't look like tight end Tyler Eifert is going to play for the Bengals. He caught 13 touchdowns in 13 games a season ago but hasn't been able to get healthy this year. See, it's not just the Cowboys who suffer injuries.
  • Am I the only one who forgot the Bengals started 8-0 last year?
  • This team is jelling for whatever reason, team chemistry exists, no matter what the new-age stat dudes say, and this group generally enjoys being around one another. Obviously a lot more goes into winning games, but that mojo wasn't around last season, for a multitude of reasons. I really like the Morris Claiborne on Green matchup, obviously with some help here and there. "Mo" wants to be that cornerback on an island. He's ready for the world to see he's finally playing like a top-tier shutdown defensive back. Think Brice Butler and Geoff Swaim catch touchdown passes and the Cowboys win, 27-23.

Check out Jeff Sullivan's column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. Find out more at You can also follow Jeff on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at

See photos from the Cowboys' Thursday practice at Ford Center.

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