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NFC East Roundup: Jerry’s talking tough

Today may not be Ezekiel Elliott’s day of reckoning, but things are heating up in Dallas 

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Jerry Jones had some things to say about Alfred Morris — but really about Ezekiel Elliott.
Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

The day of reckoning in Dallas has not yet arrived.

Emphasis on not yet.

The potential deadline for Ezekiel Elliott to report to Cowboys camp and end his holdout was believed by some to be Aug. 6. But that is not the case, Blogging the Boys’ RJ Ochoa informs us.

But Jerry Jones is ensuring the holdout remains interesting.

The Cowboys owner’s musings on Elliott have raised some eyebrows in Texas. Even if his comments Sunday were technically about Alfred Morris.

“But I hope you noticed Alfred Morris,” Jones said. “Morris got up in there. And our running back coach [Gary Brown] was talking about Alfred ... and he said just the other day, ‘Alfred Morris has the ability to run with our coached blocking style and the philosophy we have with our running game. He has the best feel of any back I’ve ever seen.’”

Let me repeat that: Morris “has the best feel of any back I’ve ever seen.”

And Jones has seen Emmitt Smith... and Elliott... AND Morris, who played for the Cowboys in 2016 and 2017 — who started a total of five games for them — before they decided to move on BECAUSE THEY HAVE ELLIOTT.

(And yes, we realize Jones claims to be quoting Brown, but c’mon.)

As Ochoa rightfully explains, Jones is quite calculating when it comes to public message-sending. So his statement cannot be taken literally. It can’t even be taken about Morris.

It is a warning to Elliott.

Just how serious a warning is the question?

Obviously, Jerry isn’t going to go so far as to permanently alienate Elliott, right? [Insert Jimmy Johnson joke here. Thank you.]

Of course, Jerry is known for his colorful metaphors and enlightening dinner conversation. I mean, the man has publicly discussed “a crippled cricket’s ass” — whatever that is — his coach’s penchant for holding handfuls of Jell-O, and of course, glory holes.

(As in: “I’ve been here 23 years. I’ve been here when it was glory hole days and when it wasn’t. I want me some glory hole!”)

But Jerry is getting closer and closer to that uncomfortable line.

And the ramifications of Elliott’s holdout extend well beyond just himself.

Jones’ quarterback and star receiver are seeking their own paydays, although both reported to camp on time. You better believe Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper — and their agents — are paying close attention to how Elliott is treated. Neither may be as good as Elliott, who is arguably the best back in football.

But Prescott is the quarterback. And no one can dispute the difference in the Cowboys after they acquired Cooper last fall.

Back to that supposed day of reckoning.

The reason today’s deadline seemed important was players who don’t report to training camp by Aug. 6 lose an accrued season toward free agency. And since they need four seasons to qualify for unrestricted free agency, well, the deadline looms rather huge for some.

Players with only three accrued seasons are merely restricted free agents, subject to tenders — and therefore subject to their teams choosing to match those RFA tenders if they desire.

But Dallas had an option to add a fifth year to the end of Elliott’s rookie deal as he is a former first-round draft pick. And to nobody’s surprise, the Cowboys exercised that option, extending Elliott’s contract through the 2020 season. The running back can earn that fourth year then.

So today likely will be just another day in an increasingly intriguing holdout.

So the saga continues. Reports say the two sides are talking, but rather far apart. Could a Le’Veon Bell situation be in the offing?

Here are some of the other big stories around the NFC East since the start of training camp:

Dallas Cowboys

While the rest of Dallas is wrapped up in All Things Zeke, the injury bug has begun to bite in Big D.

LB Sean Lee suffered a sprained MCL last week. There is no clear timetable for his return.

Despite the emotional ties the franchise has with the Pro Bowl middle linebacker, Lee is no longer a vital player on its defense with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith around. However, he does remain a starter on their projected depth chart.

But Zack Martin is a vital player on their offensive line, and an MRI revealed that the right guard has irritation in a disk in his spine.

While his return to practice may come in a week or so, we all know how tricky bad backs can be, especially for those on the line. And three-time All-Pros are awfully difficult to replace.

“We’ll give it some time to calm down a little bit,” Martin told Dallas reporters. “Our training staff obviously has a lot of experience with those type injuries, so they have a plan in place, and I’m just following what they’re telling me to do.”

And Cooper injured his heel, although word is it’s a minor issue.

Philadelphia Eagles

Don’t get angry, but ESPN says the Iggles have the second-best roster in the NFL behind only the New Orleans Saints.

(That sound you hear is Bill Belichick chuckling. He may not laugh, but he does chuckle.)

Of course, the margin for error is quite small now that a certain Super Bowl hero resides in Jacksonville.

Speaking of margin of error, there is little of it at linebacker now that Kamu Grugier-Hill suffered an MCL sprain and will be out for quite a while.

But DeSean Jackson got a hero’s welcome in his return to the Linc. (Isn’t that nice?)

And Miles Sanders is breeding hope at running back, Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton says.

I guess there’s room in the division for two Penn State running backs.

Washington Redskins

Coach Jay Gruden’s first 2019 depth chart began with Colt McCoy and Case Keenum as his quarterbacks, his first-round-pick on the scout team (Dwayne Haskins), his left tackle engaged in some kind of bitter holdout — whether it’s over money or the Skins’ medical staff (Trent Williams) — and the latest saga in Adrian Peterson’s life.

So 7-9 yet again won’t cut it.

But as every New York Giants fan knows, if Ereck Flowers is indeed penciled in as their starting left guard, well, 7-9 would be quite an accomplishment.