Cowboys RB Alfred Morris exceeding expectations in Elliott's absence
Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott – formerly the focal point of the Dallas offense – has since been replaced by six-year veteran Alfred Morris due to a suspension. To much delight of the Dallas faithful, and to Morris’ credit, the Cowboys’ ground game hasn’t skipped a beat.
Getting off to a hot start, Elliott was the league’s second-leading rusher before he took a backseat to backups Morris and Rod Smith to serve his six-game suspension from Weeks 10-15. Now four games into Elliott’s suspension, Morris has outpaced Smith to lay claim to the driver’s seat, and is firing on all cylinders.
Since taking the keys from Elliott in Week 10, Morris has amassed 307 yards on 64 carries to rank fourth in total rushing yards and fifth in yards per carry (4.8) among backs with 50-plus carries in Weeks 10-13. The former Florida Atlantic product also ranks tied for fourth in forced missed tackles (12) and third in yards after contact per attempt (3.4) among that same group of backs.
Unable to match Morris stride-for-stride, Smith has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on his 30 attempts since Elliott’s suspension. He has also forced just one missed tackle and averaged 2.1 yards after contact per attempt.
Diving deeper into his production, Morris has not only kept the Cowboys’ rushing attack afloat, but he has seemingly been more productive than Elliott in his short stint as the feature back.
Formerly a four-year starter for the Washington Redskins, Morris is well-versed in the art of being a bell-cow back, and his expertise has been on full display. Running outside zone and man-blocking run concepts in Week 10-13, Morris has averaged 5.62 yards per carry on 50 such attempts, which stands 1.53 yards above Elliott’s YPC average on the two run concepts in his first eight games this season (123 attempts).
Adding to his feats, Morris has maintained a high level of box score production by virtue of his own individual efforts rather than solely feeding off the success of Dallas’ highly touted offensive line.
Of Morris’ 307 yards these last four games, only 29.3 percent (90) have come before contact, which ranks eighth-fewest among running backs with 50-plus since Week 10. Conversely, Elliott earned 36.78 percent (288) of his total rushing yards before contact through the first eight games of the season. Morris has also edged Elliott in elusive rating and breakaway percentage when comparing the two’s stints as lead backs this season.
Now, it goes without saying that coach Jason Garrett will pin the bib back on Elliott for the team’s Christmas Eve matchup against the Seattle Seahawks given his sheer production through the first 23 games of his career. However, if anything, Morris has done enough to push Garrett to make room at the dinner table and should continue to do so for his next two starts.
One thing is for certain, the Dallas Cowboys are not used to losing three games in a row in any season, like they’ve done this year. However, Cowboys fans can take solace in the fact that the blame cannot be placed on Zeke’s replacement in Morris.