With the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday lifting a preliminary injunction that had placed Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension on hold, the Dallas Cowboys as of now appear headed toward life without their star running back.
The ruling means Elliott once again is suspended six games, and the NFL announced that suspension begins immediately — unless lawyers for Elliott or the NFL Players Association can once again block it in court. If Elliott does have to serve the suspension this season, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott will have to take his game up a notch in order for the Cowboys to hang on in a competitive NFC East.
Through the first five games the 2017 season, Prescott has clearly looked more in command of the Cowboys’ offense than he did at this time last season, but many of his stats are down.
Prescott completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards, and was averaging nearly 8 yards per attempt at this time last season. Currently he is completing 63 percent of his passes for 1,192 yards, averaging just under 7 yards per attempt while throwing 4 interceptions.
In 2016, Prescott threw 4 interceptions the entire season.
An argument can be made that a big reason for this drop in production is that he isn’t receiving the same protection from his offensive line that he received last season. The unit lost two starters, right tackle Doug Free (retirement) and left guard Ron Leary (free agency).
Another impact is likely the Cowboys’ opposition. Dallas has had to take on the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive line and the Denver Broncos’ no-fly zone in the season’s first month.
But a statistic that Prescott has increased significantly is touchdown passes. Through five games last season he only threw 4. In 2017, Prescott has already thrown 11 touchdowns.
The 2-3 Cowboys will return to the field after their bye week to play the San Francisco 49ers on the road on Oct. 22. Following that, they have a stretch of games that will be a huge test regardless of Elliott’s status.
A road game against the Washington Redskins will be followed by a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. After that they will be on the road against the Atlanta Falcons then back home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Those four teams have combined for five losses this season. The final game of Elliott’s suspension, should he begin serving it immediately, would be at home against the Chargers on Thanksgiving.
Elliott will surely appeal this latest ruling, and there is a chance that he will return before he sits out a game. But if he can’t play, the Cowboys should be able to still put together a respectable running game with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden.
However, it will take more from Prescott for this team to end a six-game stretch, against top competition, still in position to compete for a playoff berth.
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