Running Backs Cowboys Should Target If Elliott Serves Suspension
In one of the strangest sagas in the NFL this season, the uncertainty about Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and his looming six-game suspension has taken yet another turn. Roger Goodell and the NFL has pivoted legal action to seek a stay to nullify a preliminary injunction previously granted by a Texas court that has allowed Elliott to play the first two games of the season. This hearing is scheduled for October 2nd, thus permitting Elliott to continue to play for at least two more games, Monday night against Arizona and Week 4 versus the Los Angeles Rams.
To sum up, Elliott was reprimanded in August, per league protocol, after his involvement in a domestic violence incident. Elliott appealed the decision and, despite his appeal being rejected, was able to play Week 1 against the New York Giants. The NFL Player’s Association, on behalf of Elliott, filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the suspension from being implemented as mentioned above. Got all that?
If Elliott is forced to serve his suspension following Week 4, the Cowboys will have a serious dilemma in their backfield. Elliott toted the rock 24 times for 104 yards in Week 1’s win against New York. Elliott’s backup, Alfred Morris, however, just four carries for one yard. Not good. Week 2 in Denver, Dallas’ running game was completely shut down. Elliott was held to eight yards on nine carries and showed a complete lack of effort in doing so. Rod Smith added eight yards on two carries. Dak Prescott led the rushing with 24 yards. Really not good. Additionally, the Cowboys brought back Darren McFadden, only to have him be a healthy scratch for the first two contests.
If Dallas wants to continue its aspirations of winning the NFC East again and making a run in the playoffs, this concern will have to be addressed. Again, if Elliott is forced to serve his suspension. Jerry Jones isn’t the type of owner who is going to wait and see how his team does without Elliott. Jones is prone to act preemptively and sometimes even impulsively, but it’s always about winning. Let’s see what kind of running back options could be available, should Jerry need to pick up the phone and make some calls.
Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
A curious free agent signing has proven ineffective and dysfunctional in Adrian Peterson‘s first two games as a Saint. Peterson was caught by Monday Night Football cameras, criticizing head coach Sean Payton, after getting just six carries for 18 yards in a Week 1 defeat against Peterson’s former team, Minnesota. More of the same in Week 2 against New England, only 26 yards on eight carries, in another loss. If the Saints prospects for the season continue to trend downward, holding onto a disgruntled Peterson makes little sense.
Back in 2014 and 2015, as the Vikings dealt with Peterson’s suspension due to child abuse charges, the fallout left Minnesota deciding whether or not to bring Peterson back to the team when he was reinstated by the league. During this time the Cowboys and Peterson, a native of Palestine, Texas, expressed mutual interest. Then again this off-season, there was a continued dialogue between the two sides before Peterson ultimately settled with the Saints.
Peterson needs to get out of New Orleans and Dallas needs a quality veteran running back to fill-in if Elliott misses games. We know Jones loves a good reclamation project.
DeAngelo Williams, Free Agent
After Le’Veon Bell held out all of the preseason for the Steelers, it was a little surprising that Pittsburgh didn’t bring back DeAngelo Williams for some insurance. Williams scored 11 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards backing up Bell in 2015. Williams then performed capably stepping in while Bell served his three-game suspension last year. In Week 1 a season ago, Williams rushed for 143 yards and two scores. Then a respectable post of 94 yards on the ground plus a receiving touchdown in Week 2. After a dud in Week 3 of last season, Bell regained the reigns as the starter and Williams’ value and volume faded.
Williams has shown his ability to rise to the occasion when called upon. Even if just a short stint, Williams could be a viable solution in the Cowboys backfield if necessary.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
This may be a stretch. It is unknown if the Colts would even consider trading Frank Gore, but if they do, the Cowboys should be interested. Gore is the active career rushing leader and scored his 75th career rushing touchdown in Week 2 against Arizona. Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards a season ago and in the last year of his contract, is too old to play his potentially final season with a bad Colts team. Gore could not only fill the six-game void Elliott would leave, but could also serve as a mentor for the second-year pro. Gore has always been a team-first player in his Hall of Fame career and could be an example to Elliott who showed a sense of immature antics at times during the Cowboys loss to Denver in Week 2.
What is certain is the Cowboys have Elliott eligible for at least two more games. What is uncertain is everything else.