The Dallas Cowboys are rumored to be losing Ezekiel Elliott for a long stretch to start this season, creating an opportunity for Rod Smith that could end up with the seldom-used running back seizing the starting job.
Elliott faces the possible suspension due to an incident last year in Ohio. A woman identified as Elliott’s girlfriend claimed the running back assaulted her while the two were in a car, Bleacher Report noted. But four witnesses claimed that no assault took place, and police ultimately investigated the incident without ever charging Elliott.
On Friday, the Cowboys and the rest of the NFL were still waiting to find out the exact suspension the NFL would levy on Ezekiel Elliott. As Pro Football Talk pointed out, the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy has a baseline suspension of six games for domestic violence incidents, though the league has been known to institute lesser penalties depending on the circumstances.
But the report noted that there are suggestions Ezekiel Elliott will face the full six-game ban. SiriusXM NFL Radio host Ross Tucker cited a league source claiming that Elliott will likely get more than the one- to four-game suspension many had expected.
The Pro Football Talk report suggested that Elliott could receive an initial six-game suspension that is taken down to four game either on appeal or with good behavior on Elliott’s part.
Whatever the case, the absence of Ezekiel Elliott could leave a significant hole at running back for the Dallas Cowboys. As the Fansided blog The Landry Hat noted, the team has had some difficulty finding a clear backup to Elliott. There is an open competition among Rod Smith, Daren McFadden, Ronnie Hillman, and Alfred Morris, and so far the youngest one has looked the sharpest.
The 25-year-old Smith, who saw just two carries with the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, and one reception last year with the Cowboys, was the best running back in the Hall of Fame game against the Arizona Cardinals, racking up 64 yards on 18 rushes and showing a good ability to contribute in the blocking game. That could be especially important for a team looking to protect quarterback Dak Prescott.
As The Landry Hat noted, Smith is quickly moving up the depth chart in Dallas.
“In plenty of minds Smith jumped ahead of veteran Alfred Morris, he has been able to show the playmaking ability and speed that the older backs on this roster seem to have lost,” the report noted. “Morris is still showing his ability to be productive as the Cardinals let him gash them for 25 yards in one play.”
“Morris finished the game with 42 yards and seven carries and showed a knack for eluding defenders he sorely missed last season. The player who suffered the most is thought to be the presumptive backup, Darren McFadden. He was barely a blip on the radar during the game as he failed to gain 10 yards.”
It remains to be seen whether Rod Smith could move all the way up into the starting role, but if Ezekiel Elliott is given a long suspension by the NFL, then he may have plenty more chances to seize the job.
[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]