The Dallas Cowboys offense was at full strength with the presence of running back Ezekiel Elliott in the 2019 NFL season opener against the New York Giants. Regardless, it seems he is still trying to find his footing early on.
Elliott missed training camp and the preseason while holding out for a new contract. According to Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk, he admits to being rusty in Week 1:
“I felt about the same. Obviously, I was a little rusty,” Elliott said. “I didn’t play the best game. I have a lot I can improve on. But that’s going to take time, and it’s about getting more reps and being out there longer.”
Head coach Jason Garrett added that he is encouraged with what he saw from the two-time rushing champ.
“I thought Zeke did a good job,” Garrett said. “Obviously, he missed a lot of time in training camp and practiced just three days this past week, so we wanted to be mindful of how many reps we gave him in the game. I thought we did a pretty good job of that. He ended up being in a couple of longer drives in the first half, so I think he got up over 35 snaps in the game. But it seemed like he handled it well. It looked like he ran the way Zeke runs. I know over time when he practices a little bit more and gets a little more game experience, he’ll get more comfortable. But he’s a really good football player, and it’s good to have him back.”
There was already been some concern regarding Elliott’s conditioning after holding out the entire offseason. Although reports indicated that he was doing all he could to stay in shape, it is difficult to simulate the grind of an NFL training camp. It is safe to say that he was feeling some of these effects against New York.
Elliott finished the game with 53 yards on 13 carries. He also managed to tack on a 10-yard touchdown to keep his fantasy owners happy. Although it was not the kind of breakout game he was hoping for after being rewarded with the richest running back contract in the league, it was clearly enough to secure the victory.
The Cowboys will likely continue to monitor Elliott’s workload for the next few games until he is able to find his legs. Running back Tony Pollard split carries with him evenly, however, was hardly as efficient after registering only 24 yards. Pollard will need to take advantage of his opportunities if he hopes to etch out an integral role before Elliot’s resumes his status as the clear-cut workhorse in the backfield.