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Eight things to know about the Cowboys through eight games

November 10,2017 09:28

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) gets away from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey (97) and runs to the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs ...and more »

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Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) gets away from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey (97) and runs to the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, November 5, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

By SportsDayDFW.com

The Cowboys are 5-3 at the midway point of the season. Here are eight things to know about the Cowboys through eight games. 

1. The Ezekiel Elliott saga seems resolved

Tom Fox/Staff Photographer
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) slaps hands with fans as he exits the field following their win over the Kansas City Chiefs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, November 5, 2017. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. Then he wasn't. Then he was. Then he wasn't again. Elliott and his people have been battling his six-game suspension all season. He played in the first eight games of the season while fighting the ruling, but it appears Elliott will finally serve the six games. 
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Elliott's motion for an injunction on Nov. 9. Elliott would be eligible to return when the Cowboys play the Seahawks on Christmas Eve. Here's a full timeline of the Elliott courtroom drama. SportsDay's David Moore discusses why the legal battle appears to be over.
Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden will fill the void at running back while Elliott is gone. 
2. No sophomore slump for Dak

Here's where Falcons coach Dan Quinn sees Dak Prescott being like Aaron Rodgers

Dak Prescott set the NFL on fire last season. After a preseason injury to Tony Romo, Prescott was thrust into the starting role and never gave it up, leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. 
Prescott hasn't gone through the infamous sophomore slump through the first half of this season. He's thrown for 1,818 yards, 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions through eight games. SportsDay's Cowboys insider David Moore wrote about Prescott's stellar season, while special contributor Bob Sturm broke down how Prescott is putting together another remarkable campaign.
3. Defensive line a strength
The Cowboys' defensive line has become a major strength behind DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving. Lawrence is second in the NFL in sacks with 10.5 on the season. Irving, who missed the first four games of the season, isn't far behind with six. 
"We're like a bunch of wild animals," Lawrence said after a win against the Redskins. "You hit a quarterback enough times, they start looking at you like they're expecting it again."
4. The anthem

Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones and team take a knee before the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Monday, September 25, 2017. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

The national anthem controversy has become one of the major storylines of the NFL season, and the Cowboys are right in the center of it. 
After President Donald Trump criticized the NFL's national anthem protests, every NFL team responded with some kind of demonstration. During their Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals in September, the Cowboys took a knee before the anthem and stood during it arm in arm. The Cowboys have continued to stand during the anthem in the ensuing games, but David Irving continues to raise his fist at the anthem's conclusion. Jerry Jones claimed that any player who disrespects the flag will face discipline.
The Cowboys are still one of six teams that haven't had a player protest by kneeling or sitting during the national anthem.
5. Life without Dan Bailey

The Cowboys are without one of their most reliable players in Dan Bailey. He injured his groin during pregame warm ups before Dallas' game with the San Francisco 49ers. Safety Jeff Heath took up kicking duties in the Cowboys' 40-10 victory, but wasn't the long term solution. The Cowboys signed kicker Mike Nugent to fill the void until Bailey is able to return. 
Nugent has been solid so far, making four of his five field goal attempts and all seven extra points tries. But Nugent has yet to kick in a pressure-packed situation yet. 
6. Rookies yield mixed results
The Cowboys drafted nearly all defensive players in the draft. Some have made an impact right away, while others are still trying to find their way. 
First round draft pick Taco Charlton has been underwhelming with just five tackles through eight games. Charlton did log his first NFL sack when the Cowboys played the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Corner back Chidobe Awuzie, the Cowboys' second round selection, has only played in three games this season due to a nagging hamstring injury and has three tackles. Third round selection Jourdan Lewis has had more success with 26 tackles and one interception. 
One of the Cowboys' lone offensive draft picks was wide receiver Ryan Switzer, who was brought in to be Dallas' new return specialist. Switzer does not have a return touchdown on either kicks or punts through eight games. He has returned 13 punts for 81 yards and eight kicks for 169 yards.
7. Backup QB emerges

Smiley N. Pool/Staff Photographer
After taking a knee on the final play of the game, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush carries the ball with him as he walks off the field following a 40-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

One the biggest preseason story lines was who would be Dak Prescott's back up. The job appeared to be Kellen Moore's by default, until undrafted free agent Cooper Rush impressed in the preseason and made the roster. 
Moore was Prescott's primary backup for the beginning of the season while Rush was inactive. The Cowboys released Moore after the bye week and promoted Rush to the No. 2 quarterback behind Prescott. Moore was then re-signed to the practice squad. 
8. Jerry Jones vs. Roger Goodell
There's a battle brewing between Jerry Jones and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Jones has reportedly threatened to sue the league and a few owners over a possible extension to Goodell's contract. 
While it's easy to make a connection between that and the Ezekiel Elliott drama, SportsDay's David Moore writes it's more about money and power:
"Sources insist the structure and compensation of Goodell's proposed contract is the issue here. These concerns by the Cowboys owner took root months before the commissioner issued a six-game suspension to Ezekiel Elliott."
"The timeline supports this assertion. Jones was vocal with his opposition in March during the NFL Annual Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. He reiterated his thoughts to a wide range of associates in the following weeks and months."
An NFL spokesman acknowledged that Jerry Jones has threatened to sue the league while pointing out that a unanimous vote taken earlier this year -- one that included the Cowboys owner -- empowered the compensation committee to extend Commissioner Roger Goodell a new contract.
"We're certainly aware of the story and the statements that Mr. Jones has made within the context of the compensation committee," said Joe Lockhart, the league's executive vice president of communications, on a national conference call Thursday. "Broadly, I'd say on the issue of the commissioner's contract, at the spring meeting [in May] in Chicago there was a 32-0 vote to authorize the committee to enter into negotiations and offer an extension of five years through 2024.

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