Dak and Zeke: Dem boys is good
Yes, there’s a Dallas QB controversy looming, but let’s just enjoy the show while it’s still fun
The race remains too close to call. Both candidates have made compelling arguments. Each has effective surrogates making his case. And there’s still plenty of time for unexpected surprises that will determine the final decision. The battle for the presidency? Nah. Mercifully, the winner in that long battle will be known (hopefully) late Tuesday. The contest to determine the NFL’s top rookie on offense figures to be up for grabs for a whole lot longer. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott are atop the ballot.
Continuing their lit play, Prescott and Elliott led the NFL’s hottest team (can you believe it?) to its seventh consecutive victory in a 35-10 blowout of the hapless Cleveland Browns. The league’s most dynamic rookie backfield tandem since Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris were doing beyond-their-years things in the nation’s capital (more on them a bit later), Prescott and Elliott powered an offense that set a franchise record by producing at least 400 total net yards (423 against the Browns) in its sixth straight game.
In another typically efficient outing for the steal of the 2016 draft, Prescott completed 21 of 27 passes for 247 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It all added up to a sparkling 141.8 passer rating. Once again, Elliott was no less dope.
Playing in Ohio for his first time as a pro, the former Ohio State All-American and NFL’s top rusher gained 92 yards on only 18 carries (that’s a strong 5.1-yard average) and scored two touchdowns. By late in the third quarter, Dallas had a 25-point lead and the once-full stands at FirstEnergy Stadium here in Cleveland were almost as empty as the feeling of hopelessness Browns fans have had about their team for many, many years. The Browns – at 0-9, they’re the game’s only winless team – have floored the accelerator toward missing the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season.
On the opposite sideline, two youngbloods kept the party going for Dallas (7-1). The old-timers are following Prescott and Elliott. Gladly.
In his 14th season, tight end Jason Witten is cool with everything Prescott and Elliott have done to energize the Cowboys. On Sunday, the 34-year-old, 10-time Pro Bowler had a turn-back-the-clock outing, catching eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. It’s as clear as Prescott’s sound decision-making and Elliott’s cutback ability: They’ve taken the Cowboys all the way up.
“I would start with Zeke and his ability to attack,” said Witten, who had at least 100 yards receiving for the first time since the final game of the 2013 season. “He’s a dynamic threat. He can capture the edge, he has the speed, the power and the ability to make guys miss. All that comes with being the fourth [overall] pick in the draft and high expectations.
“Dak doesn’t act like a rookie. He’s critical of himself when he makes mistakes, and takes ownership. His preparation, his ability to trust the people around him … he’s done a great job.”
Morris has been there. Way back in the 2012 season, Morris, now Elliott’s backup, was a fresh-faced Washington Redskins standout. Along with Griffin – who began this season as the Browns’ starting signal-caller but has been sidelined because of an injury since Week 2 – Morris helped lead the Redskins to the NFC East title.
Griffin was selected as the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Morris set the Redskins’ single-season rushing record. As he watches Prescott and Elliott tear up the league, Morris has “thought about the similarities,” Morris said. “You can definitely make a comparison to what me and Robert and did.
“They’re both off to great starts. They’re both playing phenomenal football, which isn’t easy to do – especially being a rookie. It’s not easy to do it in this league in general. And when you’re a rookie, if you have a bad game, a lot of [fans] are quick to say, ‘That guy sucks.’ No. They don’t suck. So to play at the level they are, as consistently, is very impressive.”
Every step of the way, Prescott and Elliott are doing it together. They form their own two-man support system. Even when the intense competitors occasionally go in on each other, Prescott and Elliott are always boys at the end of the day.
“Just that chemistry. The way we communicate,” Elliott said, explaining what has enabled them to form a bond so quickly.
“We go out there and play for each other. Whenever one of us is down, we pick each other up. We hold each other accountable. We have that mutual respect for each other, no matter what we say to each other, good or bad.”
Exactly, Prescott said. A true ride-or-die approach. “I met him at the combine, then, obviously, we were drafted together,” Prescott said. “We kicked it from the beginning.
“We are roommates at away games, home games or wherever we are in the hotel. We hang out a good bit off the field.”
The relationship seems genuine. After great runs, Prescott always daps-up his dude. On sharp passes, Elliott shows his boy nothing but love. Often in the closing moments of victories, Prescott and Elliott can be seen celebrating together on the sideline. Not even Denzel Washington could pull off an acting job like that.
Not surprisingly, Calvin Hill beams as he talks about the young fellas.
A longtime team consultant in the Cowboys’ player development program, Hill is thrilled with the steady growth he has observed.
“I wasn’t surprised with Zeke. I saw him in college. And once I saw him in training camp … I had a sense of what he could do,” said Hill, the first running back in Cowboys history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a single season and the father of former seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill.
“He’s a big guy. He can go. He’s got a motor. He’s got speed. He’s got explosion. He knows how to run. So I wasn’t as surprised by him. But Dak … Dak’s another story. You just sort of noticed, every day, you noticed how mature he is. His poise, his presence.
“And day by day, you started to notice some of the little things. Some of the throws he makes. The way he seems to manage the situations. He’d make a great throw. He’d buy time in the pocket. It has been something to watch.”
As the Cowboys scrambled to shower, change and pack before the return flight to Texas, Prescott congratulated teammates on another job well done. Hill watched as Prescott worked the room. Then he had more to say.
“This guy has composure beyond his years. I mean, just watch him. It’s hard to believe he’s a rookie,” Hill said. “This guy has tremendous composure. He has the composure of a four-, five-year player. Players love him. You can see the way the team gravitates toward him. He’s something. Really, they both are.”
Dallas hit it big in the draft. Prescott and Elliott are the talk of the league. Count on their two-horse race going down to the wire – which would be great for all of us.