The Dallas Cowboys marched down the field on their first offensive drive of their second preseason game, as if it had the Hawaiian trade winds at their back Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
Yes, Ezekiel Elliott is still holding out. And yes, left tackle Tyron Smith (stiff back) and wide receiver Amari Cooper (foot) also were sitting this game out.
But Dak Prescott and some fresh faces highlighted a first-possession, 97-yard touchdown drive that overcame a few hiccups. Once the Cowboys got rolling, it was impressive.
In the 12-play scoring drive, they got a 31-yard catch from ascending Michael Gallup, three nice gains from rookie running back Tony Pollard and — for good measure — Jason Witten’s first preseason catch since shelving a broadcasting career and returning to the Cowboys’ sideline.
Was it enough to think that Elliott isn’t needed? Of course not. But the Cowboys served notice that they have some other playmakers.
(Elliott reportedly was seen flying back from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, but it’s not apparent that either side has moved on their contract negotiations.)
The Cowboys and Rams met in the first NFL exhibition game in Hawaii in 43 years, at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium.
Dak Prescott sharp vs. Rams
Let’s not forget that Prescott and Cooper also need to get paid — and their deals are up this coming offseason. Elliott remains under contract through the 2021 season.
Prescott looked mostly good in his one drive, completing all five of his pass attempts for 68 yards. The 31-yard, outside-the-numbers throw to Gallup was great. Prescott took a sack back at his own 3-yard line, but the protection and OL play looked a little shaky without a few standouts playing.
As promising as the opening drive was, the Cowboys know they’re better off with Elliott in the backfield. Pollard especially looks like he’ll be a regular contributor, but he had only two college games at Memphis with more than nine carries in a game. Nine! He also had only one 20-touch game, last year in a brilliant game vs. Houston.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted that Elliott’s camp holds that one trump card: keeping its client out of real games.
"The issue is — and the only bit of leverage is — can it go into the regular season?" Jones said. "And that's where you start paying a price if you're a team, but the player pays a price in doing that, too.
“So all of that is, as I've said and tried to point out, when you've been in this and done it as often and as many times as I have, then it doesn't startle you. It doesn't alarm."
Jones had to be pleased with Saturday’s brief cameo by the Cowboys’ first-team offense, and there might soon be a turn in the Elliott negotiations with the two sides soon to be in the same area code. But that doesn’t diminish the financial hurdles Dallas has ahead, with the threat of the Cowboys needing to require on playmakers not named Elliott once games start counting.
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