DALLAS (KXAN) — One month away from the kickoff of the regular season, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has some big decisions to make now that the NFL suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The 4th overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Elliott, led the league in rushing during his rookie season with 1,631 yards helping Dallas to the playoffs.
The Cowboys will have to find their ground game production behind experienced back-ups, Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, while Elliott is on the sideline. McFadden is entering his ninth season in the NFL. At age 29, he is hanging on the edge of the running back production cliff that usually begins to slide at 30 years old.
McFadden, third season with Dallas, led the Cowboys in rushing with 1,089 yards in 2015, but has been injury prone. An arm injury limited McFadden to three games in 2016.
Morris is in his sixth season in the NFL and second with the Cowboys (played in 14 games in 2016). Starting his career in Washington, Morris was second in rushing in 2012 with over 1,600 yards. Given his past results, Morris has enough tread on the tires to help Dallas in the early portion of the season and beyond.
The schedule doesn’t do the Cowboys any favors during the first six games of the season. Dallas opens the season on Sept. 10 against the New York Giants, a team they went 0-2 against in the 2016 regular season. After the opener, Dallas goes on the road against Denver and Arizona, and they host NFC North champion, the Green Bay Packers, in week five. The Cowboys get a slight reprieve when they face the worst of the NFC West. In week four, they host the Rams and travel to San Francisco in week six.
If upheld, Elliott’s suspension begins on Sept. 2 He is still eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.
The Cowboys’ season opener airs on NBC and KXAN TV on Sept. 10.