COWBOYS NOTEBOOK: Elliott on the verge of rushing title

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Adarius Taylor (53) in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrone Crawford clear of neck injury, Jaylon Smith breaking out.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has put himself in position to win a second NFL rushing title in his three seasons in the league.

Going into Week 17, Elliott has gained 1,434 yards on 304 carries this season and leads the Rams’ Todd Gurley by 183 yards after Gurley sat out with a knee injury on Sunday. Gurley could play this week, but he has run for more than 183 yards only once this season. Elliott’s next closest challenger will be on the opposite sideline on Sunday as the Giants’ Saquon Barkley has 1,198 rushing yards in his rookie campaign.

If Elliott plays, and the indication from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is that he will, then an average day from the Dallas star running back will likely lock up the title.

Garrett declined to discuss any feelings about Elliott going for the rushing crown.

“We don’t talk very much about individual statistics for any of our players,” Garrett said. “Again what we’re trying to do is prepare the right way and play the right way to make our team the best it can be.”

Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards as a rookie in 2016 to lead the NFL. After serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy in 2017, he finished with 983 yards. Going into this week, Elliott averages 100 yards per game in his first 40 games at 4,048 for his career.

CRAWFORD BACK WITH TEAM: Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was carted off the field on a stretcher less than a minute into Sunday’s contest versus Tampa Bay.

Following the game, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence indicated that the training staff was taking extra precautions to assure Crawford’s safety. Later, tests at the facility and at an area hospital were negative, showing no structural damage.

Garrett followed up on Monday and Wednesday saying that Crawford spent Sunday night at his house and had been walking around the team’s facility this week. Crawford was not expected to practice on Wednesday, but hasn’t been ruled out to play again this season.

SMITH SHOWED OUT: When Pro Bowl selections were announced last week and Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith was left out, he didn’t hold back much. Smith called it blasphemy.

Then he showed why on Sunday. Smith notched 10 tackles and returned a fumble 69 yards for a crucial first-quarter touchdown, his first as a pro. That followed form as Smith has had a breakout season. Going into the regular-season finale, he has 116 tackles, tied for 13th in the NFL.

Smith and Cowboys rookie Leighton Vander Esch, who is third in the league with 131 tackles, have played key roles in vaulting the Dallas defense into sixth in the NFL in total defense.