Ezekiel Elliott had one of the best starts to his NFL career of any Cowboys player in recent memory. As good as Elliott was during his 2016 rookie season, his production has declined every year since. Many Dallas fansincluding owner Jerry Jones, continue to hope for a return to the old Zeke.
Elliott attended the Cowboys’ rookie mini-camp last week, where he trained and sprinted at 22 miles per hour. And just like that, here we go again. A new Dallas Cowboys propaganda cycle begins.
We’ve heard this before from Elliot. A year ago, before the training camp, reports from Dallas were about Zeke im best shape of his life and has something to prove in the 2021 season. And how did Elliott support all this hype? He rushed for 1,002 yards, averaging 58.9 yards per game, the lowest of his career.
The former NFL rushing champion played in every game for the Cowboys last season for only the second time in his six-year career. Elliott struggled with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament for most of the season. That has been reported Elliott suffered the injury in week 4 against the Carolina Panther. While the injury likely contributed to an underperforming season for Elliot, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Another factor in Zeke’s bad year was the emergence of Tony Pollard as more than just a tempo change running back. Pollard’s fast attempts per game increased from 6.3 in 2020 to 8.7 last season. Subsequently, Elliot’s attempts fell by more than two per game, in part due to both Pollard and Dallas placing more emphasis on passing the ball.
The erratic and consistent big-play ability that Elliott once possessed is long gone. So while the cowboys obviously want to believe in Elliott as one big rusher, their return does not live up to expectations. How else do you explain Pollard’s expanded role over the past two years?
Some might say Elliott is washed. If you compare his production over the past two seasons to that contract extension He signed in 2019, it would be hard to argue otherwise. That was the last time Elliott made a Pro Bowl. He rushed for 1,357 yards in 2019 and played in all 16 games. Since then, it looks like Father Time is tugging at Zeke’s jersey while running. No matter how good he is aesthetically, he’s noticeably lost a few strides on the field.
I just don’t believe in that 22 mph speed that Elliott saw running at Cowboys rookie camp. He did that in shorts or sweatpants, with no defenders on the field and no pads. It sounds good and I know it will get the Cowboys nation going for the season, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Elliott is no longer an elite NFL back, and the Cowboys have turned into a temporary team with what they pay Dak Prescott.
I believe Elliott can still be a good rusher, but I doubt he’ll ever see 1,200 yards rushing again in a season. There are too many things at play preventing him from reaching that mark. Prescott, Pollard, Elliott’s own demise and the team’s offensive philosophy. Not to mention the offensive line’s decline in recent years. Dallas addressed this in the draft, but we’ll have to wait until September to see how that plays out.
Here we are again with Jones’ team spreading false hopes to the masses in preparation for the 2022 season. Jerry is great at selling dreams and does it better than anyone in the sport and here it is again. I don’t want to count Zeke already, but based on what’s been witnessed by Elliott over the past two years, there’s no way he’ll go back to who he was from 2016-2019. As soon as running backs drop off, they usually stay away.