Have Cowboys finally found Triplets 2.0 & then some?

in Commentary/Pro/College/HighSchool

All is well in Jerry’s World.

It’s been said that money can’t buy you happiness. But obviously, they haven’t been talking to Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys lately.

Now that running back Ezekiel Elliott has his contract extension, Jerry needs to pony up and pay the other two pieces making up the Triplets 2.0 — quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper — so the Dallas Cowboys can totally focus on the only thing that matters, winning their first Lombardi Trophy in 24 years.

Certainly, Prescott and company gave long-suffering Cowboy fans a taste of the glory days with a dominating opening day performance in defeating the New York Giants, 35-17, Sunday afternoon. And if that small sample size can serve as an indication, the Cowboys may have more complementary pieces than they know what to do with on offense, not to mention whiz kid offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.

Thanks to Elliott’s gaudy rushing stats of the last three seasons, Prescott’s presence and leadership qualities may have been underappreciated. Since his rookie season in 2016, Prescott leads the NFL in game-winning drives (14), ranks tied for fourth in fourth-quarter comebacks (8) and stands second only to Tom Brady in regular-season wins (32).

And now, Prescott may have one of the best trios of wide receivers — Cooper, veteran Pro Bowler Randall Cobb and second-year speedster Michael Gallup — to throw to in the NFL, not to mention Hall of Fame-bound tight end Jason Witten.

Last season, the Cowboys enjoyed an offensive weapon eclipsing 100 receiving yards just four times, while no receiver topped the century mark during the first five games of 2018. But against the Giants Sunday, Gallup caught all seven targets from Prescott for 158 yards, Cooper hauled in six more passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, while Cobb finished with four receptions for 69 yards and a score.

With Moore taking the passing game far beyond what the Cowboys’ run-first offense has shown in recent years, Prescott connected with seven different targets on throws and sent four receivers to the end zone. Spreading the ball around to perfection, Prescott completed 25 of 32 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns without an interception to post a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

And all of that while hardly using the high-priced legs of Elliott at all.
After touching the ball on more than 35 percent of all snaps in 2018, Elliott touched the ball on 20 percent Sunday. And yet, the Cowboys still scored five touchdowns. Once the Cowboys ramp up Elliott’s involvement as he gets into rhythm following a 40-day contract holdout, Moore’s offense should keep defenses constantly guessing.

Just look at the numbers and let them speak for themselves. In his first three seasons, Elliott has rushed for 4,048 yards and 28 touchdowns. After leading the NFL in rushing his rookie season with 1,631 yards and 15 TDs, Elliott served a six-game suspension during his sophomore season. But Zeke rebounded last year to lead the league in rushing for the second time, finishing with 1,434 yards and six touchdowns.

Since the original Triplets — all-time NFL rushing champion Emmitt Smith, along with Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin — won three Super Bowl championships as well, it might be a little early to pass the torch to the 2019 trio.

But after Dallas’ season opening performance, it’s worth taking a closer look. Smith, who rushed for an NFL-record 18,355 yards in his 13 NFL seasons, led the league in rushing yards per game on the way to three Super Bowl titles.

With that said, it’s easy to forget that Smith’s monster performances did not account for the bulk of the Cowboys’ offense in 1992, 1993 and 1995, respectively. With Aikman at the helm, the passing game accounted for 61-63 percent of offensive yards in each campaign, forcing defenses to respect what receiving weapons like Irvin, WR Alvin Harper and TE Jay Novacek could do.

And that’s why Jones compared Dallas’ opening game offense to the 1990s squad.

“Any time you put in place the one-two punch, I know if they tried to put more up in the line to stop Emmitt back in those days, then Aikman would pick them apart going down the field. One or the other,” Jones said Sunday night from AT&T Stadium. “I don’t know if I have seen us since those days being able to take whatever the defense gives us and find an answer. I feel that. I saw us do that out there against the Giants today.”

Yes indeed…we all did. And that’s why all is well in Jerry’s World.

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