Ezekiel Elliott suspension opens door for Eagles in NFC East

From ESPN - August 12, 2017

Change has been a constant atop the NFC East for more than a decade. Given the recent developments surrounding Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, that trend could continue in 2017.

No team has repeated as division champions since the Philadelphia Eagles rattled off four in a row from 2001 to '04. The Cowboys were in good position to change that. Coming off a 13-3 campaign and armed with a top offensive line, one of the league's best running backs and a promising young quarterback in Dak Prescott, Dallas was the clear favorite to repeat.

Things are decidedly less clear following the league's announcement that Elliott is facing a six-game suspension for violating the personal-conduct policy. Without an appeal, Elliott's suspension would begin Sept. 2. His first potential game action would not come until Week 8 at the Washington Redskins. That would be close to 40 percent of the season that Prescott & Co. would be without Elliott's services.

Elliott led the league in rushing attempts (322) and yards (1,631) as a rookie in 2016. Averaging 5.1 yards per carry, he kept the Cowboys out of third-and-longs and forced opposing defenses to play honest. That made life much easier for Prescott as he navigated his way through his first season in the pros.

Now the onus is on the likes of Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith to keep the Dallas ground game moving at a good clip. If they ca not, the entire operation -- from Prescott to Rod Marinelli's defense -- will feel an increased burden.


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