Do Cowboys have an effort level problem with Ezekiel Elliott?

DALLAS - What a walloping.

After taking care of the New York Giants in Week 1, Dallas was outplayed in every facet by the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The defense was stretched. Dak Prescott had his worst game under center since taking over the starting quarterback role. Some fans even took to Twitter for the call to arms to bring back Tony Romo, who is finally getting the praise he always deserved for his football acumen now that he is in the booth and away from the sidelines.

Tony isn’t coming back folks.

The game had a definite Romo era feel to it, with the team basically looking inept and putting all the pressure to deliver on the shoulders of Prescott. While he did have two touchdowns, he added two interceptions in a frustrating performance. Dak may have not had it on Sunday, but you could never question his effort. After the game, he made no excuses and vowed to be ready for Week 3. The same could not be said for Ezekiel Elliott.

We watched Elliott have his first bad game as a Dallas Cowboy as well, but unlike Prescott, his frustrations were visible and loud. It's impossible to know what Ezekiel Elliott is thinking on game day unless you are clairvoyant.

But the inclination that the whirlwind saga of the NFL's investigation into his domestic violence allegations may be in his head is unavoidable. All things considered, his first week went smoothly on the field, with him putting up the kind of numbers the team is used to. The game against Denver was a different story.

Elliott finished the game with 8 yards rushing on nine attempts, and an additional four catches for 14 yards receiving.

Bad games happen, especially against Dallas' own Von Miller and the Broncos' defense in Denver. The rumblings around him for Sunday's Loss (Capital L) are not because of his stat line, but because of the body language exhibited throughout the humbling loss.

When Elliott is on, he is so good it's unfair. A complete back capable of breaking ankles on a defender with the foot skills of a point guard, one that missed out on the All-Time rookie rushing record by just 177 yards.  A walking Madden cheat code, entertaining fans with leaping dives and the catchy "Feed Me" gimmick.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

The effort by Elliott seen on the Prescott to Chris Harris interception was laughable. When Aqib Talib intercepted the ball intended for Dez with one minute to go in the game, it was Prescott that was the last Cowboy in the way, staying in Talib's path until about the 15 yard line on the pick 6.

The performance (or lack thereof) led to an obvious call out by his coach after the game. This was not the behavior that is to be expected of one of the cornerstones of the franchise, especially for a player that is already a distraction to the team. If Elliott was frustrated due to the lack of touches, that's not the type of team first attitude that should be displayed by someone the franchise has unequivocally stood by throughout this entire ordeal.

The Cowboys knew about the whispers surrounding him before they drafted him, investing their highest pick in over two decades with the fourth selection in 2016. The reality of drafting a running back that high, given the usage he is receiving and the durability of the position anyway, is the real possibility of moving on after the rookie contract is over.

Most of the talk was regarding the use of alcohol and recreational drugs, habits one would observe at any college campus anywhere. You can't fault the team for believing this is something that he would grow out of, and if more issues appeared, the possibility of walking away from a short term marriage was always there.

What one does in their private life is their own business, but Elliott has constantly put his issues in public display himself. Effort was never a question, but it never really had to be considering the pedigree of his alma mater.

The investigation into his conduct is ramping up, and Elliott could very well come out motivated to put this display behind him. For the offense to click, it is imperative that he be the complete back seen in his rookie year. The Zeke we saw in Denver could be a one-off. If that is seen again, the new car smell may be wearing off for the franchise.
 

Were you disappointed with how much effort Ezekiel Elliott showed on Sunday or do you write it off as frustration from playing a good defense? Share your take with Irvin on Twitter @twittirv.

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