Ezekiel Elliott makes Dak Prescott a better passer, and he makes Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley better receivers.
He makes Jason Garrett a better coach, and Scott Linehan a better play-caller.
So the struggles we’ve seen from the Cowboys’ offense the past six weeks, while Elliott served his six-game suspension should be over.
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With Elliott in the lineup, the Cowboys average 28.3 points and 370 yards per game. In the last five games before Elliott’s suspension, the Cowboys averaged 30.2 points and 406 yards per game.
Without Elliott, the Cowboys averaged 18.3 points and 294 yards per game.
The lack of offense without Elliott made virtually every game a struggle. Even in a 38-14 win over Washington three games ago, the Cowboys managed just 274 yards.
So how does Garrett think teams will defense the Cowboys’ differently with Elliott back in the lineup?
“I don’t know,” he said with a smile. “You’ll have to ask them.”
Elliott’s six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy ended Monday, and he reported to the Cowboys’ practice facility just after noon. He spoke with Garrett for about 15 minutes and then met briefly with running backs coach Gary Brown.
The Cowboys officially removed Elliott from the reserve/suspended list Monday and cut running back Trey Williams, whom they hope to add to the practice squad.
Elliott spent the majority of his six-week suspension at a resort about 30 minutes outside of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Elliott and his agent, Rocky Arceneaux, produced the documentary - 42 dayz - which will soon be released.
Photos released from the video show Elliott used the time to improve his conditioning. Garrett said he’ll wait until the team goes through it’s usual Tuesday conditioning run to make a judgment.
"Typically, when you're away from the team, you have to find ways to stay in shape and get yourself ready to come back and play football," Garrett said. "Obviously, he was very productive for us the first half of the season, productive as a runner, did a lot of really good things for our football team. He was away from our team, and obviously, what you want to do is stay in shape to come back and re-acclimate yourself to playing pro football."
Garrett declined to say how the Cowboys would use Elliott against Seattle on Sunday, but there’s nothing to indicate he won’t get his usual heavy workload. Elliott carried the ball 191 times for 783 yards and seven touchdowns. He had at least 21 carries in all but one game, including four games with more than 25 carries.
Garrett said he’ll be looking for some specific things, when Elliott goes through his first practice on Wednesday.
"I just think the obvious things: what kind of condition are they in, how's their movement, can they sustain it, do they look functional, do they look smooth, do they look natural out there," Garrett said. "And again, we anticipate him being able to do all the things we ask him to do and hopefully get him re-acclimated quickly."
More important, Elliott’s presence alone will help the Cowboys’ offense because he forces teams to play differently than when Alfred Morris or Rod Smith is in the backfield.
Morris carried 99 times for 430 yards and a touchdown with Elliott out, which is good, but defenses don’t fear him, if he gained 20 or 30 yards on a carry they didn’t worry about him scoring. If teams miss a tackle or overplay Elliott he’s going to score.
Elliott makes Prescott a better quarterback because the play-action pass becomes a real weapon when Elliott is int he backfield because linebackers and safeties react much more to his presence. And his running puts the offense in much better down-and-distance situations on second and third down, which means Prescott has access to the entire playbook.
The Cowboys were 2-for-10 on third downs against Oakland on Sunday, in part, because they averaged 10.3 yards on third down.
Elliott makes Beasley and Bryant better because they’re harder to double cover, when he’s in the game.
“Double me all you want,” Bryant said after the Cowboys’ win over Oakland, “and Zeke will run for 350.”