Pressure on Ezekiel Elliott with Bryant, Witten gone

Dallas Cowboys

It’s not about the receiving core the will tell the tale of success for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 (and beyond), but, rather, the success of their running game.

As David Akers pointed out at the 2018 NFL Draft, the last time the Cowboys were in the Super Bowl, the picks in the draft weren’t even born yet. That said, the last time they were in the Super Bowl, they had The Triplets — Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. While the quarterback is the most important position, it was Smith, the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, who was the most important player. And that holds true for the 2018 version of the Cowboys where running back Ezekiel Elliott is going to take them as far as he can take them.

Much of the offseason for the Cowboys has centered around the release of Dez Bryant and retirement of Jason Witten, leaving Dak Prescott without many proven options in the passing game.

But the notion you need a No. 1 receiver like an Odell Beckham Jr. Julio Jones or Antonio Brown to win a Super Bowl is not true. The New England Patriots have won five Super Bowls, and in all five wins, they didn’t have anyone who would be termed a classic No.1 receiver.

On the other hand, a good running game always has translated to wins. A good running game provides a team with balance and variety in the playbook to keep the opposing defenses off balance. So, all of this means, in order for the Cowboys to succeed, they’re going to have to rely on Elliott more than ever as he enters his third year in the league.

The ongoing distraction from his suspension hurt the Cowboys in 2017. Not knowing when or if Elliott was going to play was a dark cloud that hung over the team, and eventually cost them a chance at making the playoffs.

Elliott will have to return to his All-Pro form of 2016 if the Cowboys even want to sniff playoff contention considering the dearth of options in the passing game. Elliott opens so much for them, and even without a No.1 receiver like Bryant or a security blanket like Witten, receivers will be able to get open simply due to the threat of the run.

Frankly, not having a No. 1 receiver is overplayed. The Cowboys will live and die based on the performance of Elliott in 2018.

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