FRISCO, Texas — The Cowboys were 3-0 this time last year. They didn't make the playoffs. They're 1-2 now. But if you ask Ezekiel Elliott, it's too early to worry.
"I don't think we're frustrated," Elliott said on Wednesday. "It's early in the season. We have a lot of football left. I don't think there's any reason to panic. We've just got to get better week in and week out."
Perhaps they're able to maintain cool heads because the offense has, at times, delivered on a lot of the explosiveness that was projected onto them in the offseason. Or perhaps it's because they know there's another level of production their offense can reach.
"We have a lot of weapons at every position and a lot of guys who can do a lot with the ball," Elliott reassured the media. "That's really exciting. We have to handle our part, take care of the ball, and good things will happen."
Still, a week after Elliott claimed that controlling the time of possession would "start with me," he finished with one of the worst games of his career in Seattle. Elliott only rushed for 34 yards on 14 carries. But even more disappointing to him was his inability to bring in a number of passes that might have produced first downs.
"I think the thing that bothered me most was the drops in the pass game," he said. "I just got to focus, lock in, and catch the football."
One thing often warned about offenses with multiple weapons is that they can't all be utilized at once. It's not as simple as assigning a touchdown to the top five playmakers and adding up all of those points. Perhaps in a game when the Cowboys did manage to score 31 points, it's not a complete disaster that Elliott's production was not particularly high because the yards and points still came from somewhere, as the logic would follow.
This, however, doesn't quite apply when balls are being dropped and plays are being left on the table. The offense may be producing, but the mistakes thus far suggest that they could be producing even more, and considering what we've seen from the defense so far, the offense may bear a greater responsibility. The short passing game with Elliott is one of the most reliable ways for the Cowboys to rack up big yardage in short bursts.
"Screen game is big," Elliott said. "It's getting the ball out in the open field. We've in the past had a lot of explosive plays in the screen game. We're focused this week on ironing that out and getting back to the screens."
Considering everything opposing defenses have to worry about, from Dak Prescott's deep threats to Elliott moving the chains as a runner, the running back screen should be an option the Cowboys can always come back to. But if it's not executed perfectly then it can result in an incomplete pass or even a frustrating loss of yards.
"We didn't really have a full camp," Elliott explained. "We didn't have a full offseason. We just have to keep working on it, and I think that's something with timing that's going to get better."
The ingredients are there for an unstoppable offense. It's a tall order, one that will be achieved through repetition. A full training camp with their new coaching staff would have been ideal. "We can't get that [time] back," Elliott said. "Just the time to get comfortable in a new system."
They're getting that time as the season goes along, perfecting things on the fly. It will just be a matter of whether defenses disrupt that learning curve, or if they find themselves on the receiving end of the Cowboys offense becoming what it's expected to be.
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