Ground Effect - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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Ground Effect

Dallas can still run
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PENDING AN appeal of his suspension, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will miss the first six games of the season after an NFL probe into accusations of domestic violence. (He denies the allegations.) Elliott led the league with 1,631 yards in 2016. So Dallas will be worse without him, but how much so? Elliott brings size, speed, vision and balance to the field, but the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league, which means that Elliott's replacement should also find room to romp. Last season, 907 of Elliott's yards came before contact—the highest total in the NFL—and only 44.4% of his yards came after contact, which was 32nd. In theory, a replacement-level NFL running back should be able to rush for 56 yards a game behind the Dallas line without even being touched. Darren McFadden led the Dallas ground attack in 2015, running for 1,089 yards behind the same line, and his numbers hold up next to Elliott's, particularly in yards per carry and yards after contact (see chart). When it comes to running the ball, the Cowboys line will ensure the team keeps rushing ahead, even with a replacement-level back.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

YR

YARDS

YPC

BEFORE CONTACT/%

AFTER CONTACT/%

10+ YDS/%

DARREN MCFADDEN

2015

1,089

4.56

539/49.5

550/50.5

27/11.3

EZEKIEL ELLIOTT

2016

1,631

5.07

907/56.0

725/44.0

48/14.9