September 2, 2019 | 10:25pm
The Giants already had a soft start to their schedule, and now they may be catching another break. The Cowboys could be without Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is still holding out as he awaits a new contract.
But Alec Ogletree is rooting for the two sides to reach an agreement.
“I hope he does show up,” the inside linebacker said Monday after practice. “I hope he gets what he wants to get. In order to be the best, you have to play everybody that’s the best, and he’s one of the best in the league.”
As the week progresses, and Elliott remains away from the team, the odds increase he won’t be out there Sunday afternoon in Arlington, Texas, for the teams’ regular-season opener. Even if a deal gets done in the next few days — the two sides reportedly are talking — it’s far from certain he would play, or play a lot.
“That’s really an issue for Dallas,” coach Pat Shurmur said.
The Cowboys are obviously a different offense when Elliott is in the backfield. He ran for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns year ago, and has reached two Pro Bowls in three seasons in the league. His presence forces opposing defense to stack the box, opening things up for Dak Prescott and company. At an NFL Network event last week, Saquon Barkley suggested the Giants would be fortunate if they didn’t see Elliott, who he described as the Cowboys’ “most important piece.”
“I think if you ask anybody who plays in the NFL that plays against the Dallas Cowboys, would you rather play them with Zeke or without Zeke, I think everyone knows what the answer would be,” Barkley said.
Shurmur said the Giants will prepare as if Elliott is playing, but also be ready to face the other Cowboys running backs. They are familiar with rookie Tony Pollard, Dallas’ fourth-round pick the Giants scouted, and have seen veteran Alfred Morris plenty through the years.
“We have to be prepared for whoever shows up to play,” Ogletree said. “If he’s there, we’ll be prepared for him. If he’s not, we also have to be prepared for the other guys. We just have to focus on what we need to do versus worrying about their situation as much.”