After watching Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott get off to a ridiculous start in 2020, most coaches would focus their defensive game plan around the Pro Bowl quarterback. But Bucs head coach Bruce Arians says the Tampa Bay defense will focus primarily on stopping RB Ezekiel Elliott.

“Offensively, it’s Ezekiel,” Arians said when asked the one player the Bucs need to stop. “Because it all starts with him and that big offensive line. They’re gonna try to run the football, so we gotta get them in a one dimensional game there.”

Considering Prescott threw for almost 2,000 yards and nine touchdowns in less than five full games, that is a curious answer from Arians. Elliott is obviously a good running back, but he finished under 1,000 yards last season and struggled with fumbles. It has been clear for years now that Prescott is the engine that makes the Cowboys offense run. That’s especially true when you consider Mike McCarthy’s pass-heavy approach over the years, and the Cowboys receiving trio of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.

Did I mention the Bucs are owners of the No. 1-ranked run defense each of the past two seasons?

Of course, all of this could just be coach-speak and mean nothing. It’s far from reason to panic, but it is an interesting reply. The Cowboys will attempt to run the ball at points, but they are underdogs against a team that has put up 30+ points in their last eight games. McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore are going to come out guns blazing on Thursday night, and it’s going to be a long night for the Bucs defense if they are loading the box to stop Elliott.

The Bucs and Cowboys square off on Thursday Night Football to open the 2021 season.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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1 month ago

Stop the run is always first order business. Dak will struggle without run game he always has.

Last edited 1 month ago by fredster
1 month ago

Dak’s not 100%, so they will shut down Elliott first, then they will put a few good hits on Dak and shut him down. Then it’s good night Cowboys! However, if Elliott gets going early, that takes a lot of pressure off Dak, and gives the Cowboys some breathing room with the ability to control the clock. Can’t let that happen. You got to make them one dimensional first so you pin your ears back and wreak havoc!

1 month ago

I say they paint a target on Dak’s throwing shoulder with arrows pointing to it.

1 month ago

New season guys, last years placement in run defense doesn’t mean a thing.
Don’t believe me, listen to OC Byron Leftwich, “Even though we’ve got the same team, we’ve got awareness that it’s going to take more than what we did last year. We know we can’t take what we did last year, and assume it’s going to be just a go from there.”
Please, no more mention of what th team did last year. That is history

1 month ago

Stop the run on the way to the QB.

Reply to  surferdudes
1 month ago

I always loved that Warren Sapp insight.

1 month ago

Running and passing are complementary on consistently good teams. Stop the run, then it’s easier to stop the pass because then your pass rushers – of which we have possibly the best set in the league – can “pin their ears back” and give the quarterback hell.

Not coach speak, that’s experience talking.

1 month ago

It’s always “stop the run” first. If Zeke is already starting to fade a bit, Dak will be forced to pass more than the Cowboys would prefer. Since it’s his first game in a while, I suspect they want to protect him by relying on Zeke. Put that pretend fork in him. Just who is their back-up QB? If DrD has his way, we might just seem him. Cowboys fans will be doing the Saints’ “Who Dat?” cheer.