If you’re wondering about the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff scenarios, take a break. It’s time for Five Wonders:
Away we go:
- Ezekiel Elliott will be back from suspension on Dec. 18 for the beginning of the prep work for the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve. In the first 23 games he has played, Elliott has gotten almost all of the meaningful carries. He played 464 of the 547 offensive snaps in the first eight games of the season. When he returns, I wonder if the Cowboys will go back to giving him almost all of the meaningful carries or if they will give Alfred Morris some work in the run game and Rod Smith some work in the pass game. Of the two, Morris’ time is likely more in jeopardy. The Cowboys will have to see what kind of conditioning Elliott is in when he comes back, but Smith has been useful in the passing game beyond his 81-yard touchdown catch against the New York Giants. It might be smart to work Elliott back up to speed.
- I’m on record as saying the Cowboys need to keep linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who is set to be a free agent. I wonder why the Cowboys aren’t talking to him about a new deal now. The word I’ve gotten is that there haven’t been any discussions. Considering Sean Lee’s injury status and Jaylon Smith’s continuing return from a serious knee injury, keeping Hitchens around makes sense and not just for insurance. Hitchens is a good player; better than people want to realize. If he goes, then the Cowboys have to add a linebacker somehow, either in free agency or the draft. Why not keep one of your own? Here’s a mini-wonder inside a wonder: I wonder if teams will place a higher value on Hitchens than the Cowboys and make him an offer he can’t refuse if he gets to the open market.
- Speaking of keeping potential free agents, I wonder if the Cowboys will make a push to keep left guard Jaylon Smith. The former No. 7 overall pick struggled to find a footing with the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, but he has done well enough for the Cowboys to consider keeping him in 2018. Cooper is better served — as are all left guards — when Tyron Smith plays, but the Cowboys value continuity up front. They can keep him with a short-term deal, draft a potential starter in the spring and keep the group together for another year.
- Brice Butler was inactive against the Giants in part because of a foot injury. He was limited throughout the week in practice leading up to the game. I wonder if the Cowboys will continue to keep Butler inactive even if his foot improves. He is a free agent after the season and his chances of returning don’t seem great. The Cowboys want to see what rookie Noah Brown can do, and he is better in the running game. Butler has made some big plays this season, mostly on broken plays. I think he is a solid player and can help an offense but as presently constituted, he just doesn’t seem like the best of fits right now. He played in fewer than 20 snaps in each of the last three games he has played.
- The Cowboys and Giants have met in Week 1 in five of the last six seasons in part because it is a guaranteed ratings’ draw to open the season. While that will still be true in 2018, I wonder if the NFC East rivals are done meeting in Week 1. What point would it serve? At 2-11, the Giants are about to have a top-three pick, a new coach, a new general manager and probably a new quarterback. The season-opening meeting is something of a tradition but it’s one that needs to end.