Nov. 25, 2016
Cowboys' Offensive Line Warrants MVP Consideration
Two weeks ago, ESPN's John Clayton to get their thoughts on their choices for MVP candidates (Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Derek Carr, Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and David Johnson).
No one can deny the outstanding play and impact of the aforementioned. Russell Wilson has the Seahawks on pace to win the NFC West division despite below average play from his offensive line; Matt Ryan has the Falcons in prime position as one of the better teams in the NFC; Tom Brady is leading the charge as usual for the Patriots and Derek Carr has brought the Oakland Raiders out from underneath the ashes in his third year out of Fresno State.
What seems all but imminent however is that the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award will be hoisted in Dallas this year. It’s just a matter of who gets the award. The Dallas Cowboys are arguably the best team in the NFL and at this moment looks to be the NFC representatives of Superbowl LI. On one hand you have MVP candidate/rookie quarterback Dak Prescott originally brought in as the backup to Tony Romo out of Mississippi State but now is the undeniable starter even with a healthy Tony Romo. Romo said of Dak, “He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right. He’s guided our team to an 8-1 record, and that’s hard to do.” This was before Prescott completed 27 of 36 passes for 301 yards and three TDs to beat the Baltimore Ravens, improving to 9-1.
On the other hand you have fellow MVP candidate and rookie Ezekiel Elliott, running back out of Ohio State who (for this season at least) has established himself as the NFL’s best running back. He is the leader in just about every running back stat out there.
There is, however, another candidate in Dallas that warrants significant consideration in the MVP race, the Cowboys' Offensive Line.
To understand the impact/dominance of this Offensive Line for Dallas you would need to look at the collective assist that the front five have had in the success of both Dak and Zeke before looking at the offensive line stats itself.
Looking at the Rookie Numbers:
Per , Ezekiel Elliot leads the league in rushing with 1,102 yards. He’s tied for first in runs of 20+ yards (8) and first in rushing first downs (64).
Through sunday's games, Dak Prescott has thrown 17 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. He is 6th in completion percentage and has the 3rd best Quarterback Rating (behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan). Simply put, Dak is extremely efficient in making plays at the quarterback position while Zeke is downright dominating every time he touches the ball.
Now looking at the Offensive Line's Numbers:
The number one thing to keep in mind is that for almost every rookie entering the league, there is the expected rookie wall where said rookie(s) will often struggle finding their groove for any given length of time. The game speed in the NFL is significantly faster than college. Opposing teams (the good ones anyway) are aware of your strengths and will force you to have to make plays outside of your comfort zone. The rookie wall can last anywhere from a few weeks to possibly an entire season even.
Neither Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott has experienced the rookie wall. Their transition from college to the pros has been seamless. Yes they are both talented but when you've got such a dominating offensive line that controls the tempo of the game there's no denying the impact it has on minimizing the ups and downs that you'd undoubtedly face on any other team (especially as a rookie).
1. After sunday's games, Dallas is now 3rd in third down conversions (48%); 1st in fourth down conversions (100% on seven attempts) and 1st in Time of Possession per game, per
2. heading into week 11, the Cowboys' Offensive Line ranked 8th in Power Success at 73% (percentage of third or fourth down runs with two yards or less to go that resulted in a first down or a touchdown).
3. Dallas also ranked 4th in 2nd level yards (yards which the running backs earn between 5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage divide by total running back carries). Watch any Cowboys game and you’ll see that Ezekiel Elliott consistently seems to get past the line of scrimmage without for what looks to be three or four yards. Take the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 10. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 114 yards. In fact, go back and . By the time Elliott reached the line of scrimmage, all but maybe three defenders were either jammed up or on the ground.
4. In Passing situations, Dallas ranked 7th in Adjusted Sack Rate (sacks intentional grounding penalties per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance and opponent). They’ve given up the 4th fewest sacks in the league.
In a league predicated on fast high flying scoring with high volume of passing, the Dallas Cowboys run almost the complete opposite style of play with a slower, more methodical and time consuming style of offense that ultimately tires out opposing defenses. Instead of the flashy knockouts, the Cowboys are built for twelve rounds fights.
For the select Cowboys fans seeing red right now, again, no one is denying the talent of Dak and Zeke. It was obvious Elliott would thrive coming out of Ohio State. After all, heading into week 11, Elliott ranked , according to Pro Football Focus. But without the offensive line and a quarterback to take the pressure off, i'm not so sure he'd have the same impact (as a rookie). Not a shot at Zeke but look at Todd Gurley, second year man from the University of Georgia. Amazing talent, comparable to Adrian Peterson, no question. But the Los Angeles Rams have had no quarterback production, so much so that opposing defenses can simply have 8-man box formations where they can just lock in on the star running back. As a result, Gurley is this season.
And before the season even started, I went on the record and voiced my support for Dak Prescott, especially after the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks (video below).
The fact that neither rookie has hit "the wall" is only a testament to what this offensive line have provided for both Dak and Ezekiel. Dak has all the time in the world to choose between his first, second, third reads and so on while Zeke doesn't get an arm on him until he's reached the second level defenders.
I can understand the argument for either Dak or Zeke as MVP but because of the collective impact that this Offensive Line has had in the success for both rookie players (time of possession, yards before , very little pressure from opposing pass rushers) the front five for dallas warrants at least a vote. It's not a sexy pick by any means but if we're talking about the most valuable it's the Dallas Cowboys offensive line.
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