By Mike Fisher
IRVING (105.3 The Fan) - My initial thoughts on the conventional-wisdom-style analysis of the 2016 Cowboys offense that it should simply mimic the 2014 Cowboys?
I thought it was lazy and trite, an intellectual shortcut, a bypass of the realities of the NFL, where rosters churn at a 30-percent pace and each season is its own unique snowflake.
But then we hear from a trio of offensive linemen, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, and to a man they talk openly about how the presence of rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott can help them forge a return to 2014. And then most of all we talk to tight end Jason Witten, who puts the cherry on top by comparing Zeke favorably to DeMarco Murray, who once upon a time burrowed himself under Witten's wing, learned to be a professional, and for that 2014 season stayed healthy enough to post a campaign for the ages.
And here we go … Back To The Future?
"We had a great run together,'' says Witten of his time with DeMarco, who of course left Dallas in free agency a year ago and is now in Tennessee. "But DeMarco earned that to the year that he had. …''
The point behind, Elliott needs to earn in the same way
But then another point: Elliott is going about the "earning'' in exactly the same way, the right way.
Said Witten: "Zeke's very talented. You can see that. And he works at it. I think that excites me a lot as a veteran player to see a young guy come in and have high expectations but also to want to surround himself with the right guys and do it the right way. I've been impressed with that so far."
Elliott received a couple of phone calls immediately after being drafted by Dallas with the fourth overall pick. One was from Emmitt Smith, encouraging the Ohio State product to continue the Dallas legacy of fine running backs. Another was from Murray, advising him to stay close to Witten, to watch and to learn.
For the moment, Darren McFadden has taken many of the first-team snaps at running back during Cowboys OTAs, and veteran Alfred Morris is in this mix, too. Elliott says all the right things about completion, saying, "It keeps us on our toes … It's part of the honor of playing for America's Team.'' But the eventual winner of that competition is no secret.
"That relationship will come with him,'' says Witten in an almost tantalizing way … as if the carrot is out there for Zeke to chase, a carrot that might make him Emmitt-like, and Murray-like, and specifically, make the Cowboys offense featuring an again-healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, 2014-like.
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