The Dallas Cowboys offense is at its most efficient when they ARE NOT throwing it to their prized running back, Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott is the most talented player on the Dallas Cowboys offense (with all due respect to Zack Martin). But because of the role he plays and the position the coaching staff puts him, he’s become a detriment to the office in a couple ways. One of those ways is in the passing game.
From an expected points perspective, this season Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys passing attack are far more successful when throwing to receivers and tight ends than they are throwing the ball to Zeke. This shouldn’t be overly surprising since WRs and TEs all run deeper routes than Dallas’ favorite RB.
Therein lays the real problem. It’s not Zeke that’s the problem, it’s where he’s given the ball that’s the problem. While everyone else is running strategic downfield routes, designed to complement each other and exploit the defense, Zeke’s often left sitting shallow.
When Dak feels there’s too much risk involved downfield, he knows his trusty sidekick is just a simple check-down away. I touched on this a couple days ago in this article right here:
Ezekiel Elliott’s average depth of target this season has been 0.4 yards past the line of scrimmage. Passing to him is basically a glorified hand off just without the blockers. That’s why even though he leads the team in receptions he’s one of the least dangerous players to pass to.
As the chart on this tweet indicates (it only seemed fair to not include Week 17 since Zeke sat out), Ezekiel Elliott is a heavily used but rarely fruitful option in the passing game. Nearly every option is a better one than Zeke. Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley, and Michael Gallup lead the team. But Allen Hurns, Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Dalton Schultz all score better in the EPA department (If you’re not sure what EPA is catch up here).
Again, this has more to do with Zeke very uncreatively hanging out at the line of scrimmage, and less to do these guys being better pass-catchers. They aren’t. They’re just in better position.
At times Zeke is able to create something out of nothing and collect big yards on a checkdown, but statistically speaking, nearly every other option provides better expected points situations.
This isn’t really breaking news either. Running backs, when not used as route runners, are check downs and last resort options for a reason. Having watched the All-22 of the entire season, I can safely say Zeke has not always been the last available option. And a few times too many, Dak has settled for Zeke when bigger plays were developing down field.
Pass protection has been an issue this season and as such, it has sped Dak’s internal clock, reducing the number of progressions and increasing the number of receptions for Zeke
Designed Screen are different.
While designed screens are included on the EPA chart above, they aren’t a terrible option. Screens hold big play potential while stunting the aggression in an edge pass-rush in the process. They are still statistically less fruitful than say, a pass to Cole, but they serve a purpose outside of a singular play (which is make an edge rusher pause on future plays).
Far too often the Dallas Cowboys throw it to Zeke when better options are available. At times Zeke is able to create something out of nothing and collect big yards on a checkdown, but statistically speaking, nearly every other option provides better expected points situations this season.
If the Dallas Cowboys insist on feeding the ball to Zeke in the passing game they should send him downfield on routes, otherwise they’re leaving far too many plays on the field.
- Published on 01/04/2019 at 13:30 PM
- Last updated at 01/04/2019 at 13:16 PM