Entire weight of Cowboys’ running game will fall on OL in 2024

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are putting that adage to the test in 2024. Not to come off as insult to owner Jones but at 81 years of age, the head honcho in Dallas accurately qualifies as an “old dog” by most standards.

Yet where Jones errored in days past, he’s seemingly corrected course here in the present. Devoid of anything remotely resembling a starting running back, the top ball-carrier position was thought of by many as a major need of Dallas’ in the draft.

Low and behold, the elder Jones proved these are not the Cowboys of the 1990s and new tricks are not impossible for all old dogs.

To the dismay and bewilderment of many, the Cowboys never drafted a RB in the 2024 NFL draft. They liked some and had some on their draft board, but when push came to shove, when the Cowboys went on the clock, higher rated players at other positions prevailed.

The RB position went unfilled, and in the aftermath, Dallas fell back on a familiar face, signing Ezekiel Elliott to a one-year/$3 million deal to rejoin the team that once drafted him fourth overall.

The reunion was both a reminder of the past and the lesson in the present for Jones. Once upon a time the Cowboys blew the budget to keep the incomparable Elliott in town and finically satisfied. The investment ran contrary to growing analytical opinion which incessantly trumpeted, “RB’s don’t matter.”

As fortune would have it, the analytics community proved correct, and Elliott became an expensive luxury the Cowboys could no longer justify within the budget. Cue his release and subsequent 2023 season with New England.

Fast-forward to 2024 and the Cowboys and Elliott are exes reunited. No longer the power-couple they were once were, Elliott and the Cowboys are set out to show it’s the offensive line who carries the weight of the running game and the running back who simply takes what’s given to him.

Over the last two seasons, Elliott has not been the value-added runner he once was. His rushing yards over expected have noticeably declined and he, like most RBs, have proven to only be as good as the blockers in front of him.

Elliott’s still valuable in matters outside of extra yardage, but generally speaking, it’s on the Cowboys newly rebuild offensive line to provide most of ground yards in 2024.

Instead of adding a rusher to replace the newly departed Tony Pollard, the Cowboys used a first rounder, third rounder and seventh rounder to address the O-line. All three grade well as draft selections and all three have potential that’s through the roof.

Even if Elliott isn’t the final plan at RB1 in Dallas, no one the Cowboys can realistically acquire is likely to be much better in terms of rushing yards over expected. The operative word being “expected,” meaning the best way to improve the Dallas running game this coming season isn’t by asking the RB to do more with what he’s given but giving the RB more to work with. Improve the expected. It’s up to the offensive line.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire