Without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys offense is sputtering.
A lack of playmaking ability has become apparent in the two games they’ve been without Elliott, as the offense is averaging just 8 points per game. Now, it’s the responsibility of coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to do everything in their power to unearth a few playmakers that can help them survive until Elliott returns.
With starts like Dak Prescott, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant existing within that offense, it might be hard to rectify with the reality that the offense isn’t producing. However, Witten is in the clear twilight of his career and the evidence is mounting that Bryant simply isn’t the force that he once was either.
Cowboys fans should still have every confidence in Prescott, but without the necessary talent accompanying him, there’s not much he can do. Getting Tyron Smith back to bolster the offensive line will help everybody by buying time, but that in and of itself doesn’t look like it will be enough.
The Cowboys coaching staff has to find additional playmaking ability and, given that the trade deadline has passed and there’s little help available in free agency, that starts by giving the younger, less proven players on their roster an extended look.
That should mean more reps for Rod Smith, Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown. They could also be benefitted by the potential return of tight end Rico Gathers, though that’s no guarantee as he remains on injured reserve with a concussion.
Short of Dez Bryant regaining his All-Pro form or some unforeseen stretch of defensive dominance, the Cowboys just don’t have the offensive firepower to get the job done as currently constituted. And if the younger prospects aren’t ready to make up part of the difference lost when Elliott was suspended, then they’ve got to scour free agency and opposing practice squads for any signs of life.
No one player can replace what was lost with Elliott but some combination of several players has to get them close enough to be able to squeeze out a handful of wins in the next four weeks. If they can stay within striking distance of the NFC Wild Card hunt, Elliott’s return for the final two games could help put them over the top.
None of it’s going to be easy, but the alternative isn’t one the Cowboys are prepared to face.