Dallas Cowboys Q&A: Understanding Ezekiel Elliott, La’el Collins and more

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 10: La'el Collins /

We recently asked Dallas Cowboys expert Steven Mullenax from The Landry Hat about Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

With the Kansas City Chiefs slated to face the Dallas Cowboys on the road on Sunday afternoon, they begin the second half of their season against America’s team, a young unit that has found their stride in recent weeks as the offensive line has come together and Ezekiel Elliott has placed the offense on his shoulders.

If the Chiefs are to stop the Cowboys, they’re going to need to step up their run defense and challenge the secondary to steal a win before their bye week. To understand how the Chiefs could win (or even lose), we asked Dallas Cowboys expert Steven Mullenax from The Landry Hat to tell us more about the Cowboys at this point of the season.

For the Cowboys, what is the morale at the halfway point of the season?

The dynamic of the team has changed this week with the suspension and sudden return of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Coming off of back-to-back wins, morale would normally be high. But the mystery surrounding Elliott’s playing status hovered over this team most of the week, as they prepared for the next few games without him. Elliott’s return should give the team some extra energy and a morale boost going into this pivotal matchup at home.

What’s been the single biggest frustration on the roster so far in 2017?

Like many NFL rosters, I believe the biggest frustrations have been injuries and inconsistent play. Injuries to players like linebackers Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens, left tackle Tyron Smith and rookie defensive back Chidobe Awuzie have limited or hurt this team at times this season. It can be argued that Lee’s absence cost the Cowboys two wins this season already.

We’ve also seen frustrating, inconsistent play from both Dallas’ offensive line and defensive secondary. The Cowboys O-line struggled early, with right tackle La’el Collins starting at a new position and former first round bust Jonathan Cooper filling in at left guard. But they are coming off their best game as a unit and seemed to be building some much needed chemistry. Safeties Byron Jones and Jeff Heath have also been a source of frustration, as both have had their issues tackling and in coverage. Neither has shown much playmaking ability so far this season.

The Dallas offensive line gets a ton of press, but how has it looked specifically this year? Dominant as ever?

No, not dominant. Early on this season, they looked average. And that was to be expected. This offseason, the Cowboys lost two of their starters along their offensive line. Right tackle Doug Free up and retired after a 10-year career, and left guard Ronald Leary was signed away by the Denver Broncos via free agency. Instead of allowing La’el Collins to reassume his starting role at left guard, Dallas elected to shift him to right tackle. The last seven games have been on-the-job training for Collins, with mainly positive results. As for left guard, a battle between Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper has been raging for most of the season for that spot. It’s only been the last couple of games that Cooper has really cemented himself as the starter. And he seems to be playing better and better with each outing.

If the Cowboys were to lose on Sunday to the Chiefs, it will likely be because…?

They are unable to run the ball successfully. The gameplan for Dallas is simple. Run the ball. With Elliott back in the fold, the Cowboys will target the Chiefs’ 28th ranked rushing defense. If they are unable to find success on the ground, Dallas will be forced to turn to quarterback Dak Prescott and his receiving corps to pull out the victory. That could be an issue as the Cowboys success through the air is fueled by their running game. Without it, the team as a whole becomes imbalanced.

If the Cowboys pull out of the weekend with a win, it will likely be because…?

The Cowboys defensive pass rush gets to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Dallas’ defense has been crushing opposing quarterbacks as of late. If they can continue that trend on Sunday, I believe that gives the Cowboys to best chance of coming out with an upset victory. If not, the offensive weapons Kansas City possesses, and the fact Smith doesn’t turn the ball over, will likely overwhelm the Cowboys’ inexperienced secondary.

Any final predictions for the final score and why?

With Ezekiel Elliott back in the lineup, I believe the Dallas Cowboys will now have the advantage going into Sunday’s matchup with the Chiefs as they’ll run the ball against Kansas City’s poor run defense. That will allow Dallas to control the clock, win time of possession and keep their talented, but very young defense off the field. Dallas Cowboys 27, Kansas City Chiefs 24.