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The Dallas Cowboys traded Elliott to the Patriots this year. Photo: Ezekiel Elliot's Instagram
The Dallas Cowboys traded Elliott to the Patriots this year. Photo: Ezekiel Elliot's Instagram

The 2023 NFL season has already given fans plenty to talk about, and one topic that's caught the attention of many is the Dallas Cowboys' decision to trade star running back Ezekiel Elliott to the New England Patriots. While it's still early in the season, there are some signs that the Cowboys might already be missing the presence of their former ground game powerhouse, especially in the red zone.

Let's break down the stats and take a closer look at the situation.

Red Zone Prowess: Elliott's Legacy

Ezekiel Elliott, during his tenure with the Cowboys, was known for his ability to excel in the red zone. His powerful running style and knack for finding the end zone made him a key asset when the field shrunk. In the 2022 season, Elliott scored an impressive 12 rushing touchdowns, solidifying his reputation as one of the league's premier red-zone threats.

The Cowboys' Red Zone Struggles in 2023

Fast forward to the 2023 season, and the Cowboys are already experiencing some difficulties when it comes to punching the ball into the end zone, especially on the ground. While it's essential to remember that it's still early in the season, the numbers raise some questions.

As of now, the Cowboys rank near the middle of the pack in red-zone efficiency, converting touchdowns on just over 53% of their trips inside the 20-yard line. This is a noticeable drop from their 2022 performance when they ranked among the league's top red-zone offenses, with a conversion rate of over 64%.

Zek is looking like he belongs in New England as they are using him for what Dallas should have done for the red zone. Photo: Ezekiel Elliott Instagram
Zek is looking like he belongs in New England as they are using him for what Dallas should have done for the red zone. Photo: Ezekiel Elliott Instagram

The Missing Element: Elliott's Veteran Presence

One cannot help but wonder if the absence of Ezekiel Elliott is a factor in these early-season struggles. Elliott's experience, vision, and physicality were all assets that the Cowboys could count on when they needed to grind out tough yards in the red zone. His ability to pick up those crucial short-yardage situations was a key component of their offensive strategy.

While the Cowboys still have a talented roster, including young running backs with potential, there's something to be said about the veteran presence Elliott brought to the field. His leadership, football IQ, and understanding of situational football made him a valuable asset in close-game situations.

Conclusion: The Early Signs

In conclusion, it might be too early to make sweeping judgments about the Cowboys' decision to trade Ezekiel Elliott. However, the early-season struggles in the red zone do raise questions about whether his presence could have made a difference.

Elliott's ability to consistently find the end zone in the past suggests that the Cowboys might be missing a crucial element in their offense. While it's essential for the team to adapt and evolve, it's also worth considering whether parting ways with a proven red-zone weapon was a decision that could come back to haunt them as the season progresses. Only time will tell if the Cowboys made a mistake, but for now, there's a notable void in the red zone that was once filled by Ezekiel Elliott.

Since the 1996-97 season, the Patrick J. Kelly Cup has stood as the ultimate prize in the world of the ECHL, awarded annually to the playoff champion. Yet, it's not just a trophy; it's a symbol of dedication, passion, and a storied history that encapsulates the essence of the sport.

A Tribute to a Founding Father

The cup's namesake, Patrick J. Kelly, is one of the true founding fathers of the ECHL. For the league's first eight seasons, he served as its Commissioner, guiding it through its formative years with unwavering commitment. In 1996, recognizing his immense contribution, he was honored with the title of Commissioner Emeritus, a position he still holds with great pride.

Upon his retirement as Commissioner, the ECHL made a significant decision that forever linked his name to the league's crowning achievement. The previous championship trophy, the Jack Riley Cup, was retired, making way for the introduction of the Patrick J. Kelly Cup. This new trophy would bear his name, symbolizing the pinnacle of success in ECHL hockey.

A Remarkable Journey in Hockey

In 2022-23, Patrick J. Kelly celebrates an astounding 70 seasons immersed in the world of hockey. His journey began in 1952 with the St. Catherine Tee Pees of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, marking the inception of a legendary career.

Kelly's professional playing days included stints with the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League, the Troy Bruins of the International Hockey League, and the Greensboro Generals of the Eastern Hockey League. However, it was in his roles as a coach and leader that Kelly truly left an indelible mark on the sport.

From 1965 to 1973, he coached in the Eastern Hockey League, honing his skills and sharing his passion for the game. In 1973, he took on the mantle of head coach and general manager of Charlotte in the Southern Hockey League, further solidifying his reputation as a hockey luminary.

In 1977-78, Kelly ventured into the NHL as the head coach of the Colorado Rockies, a feat that stands as a testament to his coaching prowess. Under his guidance, the Rockies made their mark in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a remarkable achievement in the team's history.

After successful coaching stints in the American Hockey League, Kelly found himself at the helm of the Peoria Rivermen in the International Hockey League. In his very first season in 1984-85, he led the Rivermen to the Turner Cup, etching his name in the annals of hockey history.

A Legacy Honored

The ECHL, recognizing Patrick J. Kelly's extraordinary contributions and enduring legacy, decided to name its most coveted trophy in his honor. The Patrick J. Kelly Cup is a symbol of excellence, resilience, and the enduring spirit of the game.

It represents not only the pinnacle of achievement in ECHL hockey but also a tribute to a man who dedicated his life to the sport. As players, coaches, and fans alike strive for glory, they do so with the knowledge that they are competing for the Patrick J. Kelly Cup, a trophy that embodies the very essence of hockey excellence.

The New York Jets, once harboring Super Bowl dreams with the acquisition of NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, faced a sudden twist of fate in the 2023 season. Rodgers' campaign was tragically cut short after just four plays due to a devastating Achilles injury. With the team in dire need of a quarterback solution, the football world's speculations ran wild.

As head coach Robert Saleh entrusted former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson with the quarterback position, the question remained: who could fill Rodgers' shoes in case of another setback? Fans and pundits threw around names like the retired Tom Brady and contemplated the limited pool of available free agents.

Amidst the swirling rumors, one name stood out - Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, renowned not only for his football skills but also for his civil rights activism, had been tirelessly seeking another chance in the NFL for years. Kaepernick, seizing an opportunity, reached out to the Jets following Rodgers' devastating injury. Still, the Jets appeared uninterested in his services.

However, a recent twist has put Kaepernick back in the NFL spotlight. Musician J. Cole took to social media to share a letter written by Kaepernick, directed to Jets general manager Joe Douglas. In this heartfelt letter, Kaepernick humbly requests not to take over Zach Wilson's role but rather to be signed to the Jets' practice squad.

Kaepernick's letter, dated just ten days after Rodgers' season-ending injury, emphasizes his unrelenting dedication to his training regimen, which has remained unchanged for six years. He reaffirms his unwavering passion for the game and lists several notable references, including Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, UCLA head coach Chip Kelly, and Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis.

"Worst case scenario, you see what I have to offer and you're not that impressed. Best case scenario, you realize you have a real weapon at your disposal in the event you ever need to use it," Kaepernick eloquently expressed in his letter. "In either of these scenarios, I would be committed to getting your defense ready week in and week out, all season long, and I would wear that responsibility like a badge of honor."

Kaepernick's last appearance in an NFL game dates back to January 1, 2017. Although he had a workout with the Las Vegas Raiders in May 2022, no opportunities materialized from it. Coinciding with the public release of his heartfelt letter, the Jets signed veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian to their practice squad. Siemian had previously played for the Cincinnati Bengals during the preseason.

The NFL landscape remains uncertain regarding Kaepernick's future, but his impassioned plea for another shot in the league is now open for all to read. Whether his letter resonates with any NFL teams and leads to a second chance in the sport he loves, only time will tell.

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