Ezekiel Elliott is the lifeblood of the Dallas Cowboys‘ offense. He’s been at the center of the team’s success since they drafted him with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Ohio State product was a First Team All-Pro as a rookie and has continued to dominate over the past two seasons.
In his three seasons, Elliott has led the league in rushing attempts and rushing yards twice. He had no shot at the rushing crown in 2017 because he served a six-game suspension. When Elliott returned to the playing field, he was back in superstar form, though. Even though he only reached 983 rushing yards that year, he still led the league in rushing yards per game. That’s a feat he’s accomplished every year of his career. For reference, all-time greats like Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders have only led the league in rushing yards per game four times. Emmitt Smith did it three times during his entire career. It’s crazy to think about how dominant Elliott has been for the Cowboys.
Elliott has been the most important part of Dallas’ offense over the past three years. He’s already racked up 1,003 career touches, a category that he led the NFL in this past season. During that same period, Dak Prescott has only completed 975 passes, and he hasn’t missed a game. Elliott has missed eight games. So, it’s befuddling to hear Jerry Jones brush off the superstar running back.
Jones briefly joked, “Zeke who?” when asked about impressive rookie running back Tony Pollard possibly giving Dallas leverage in negotiations. According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Elliott and his agent, Rocky Arceneaux, didn’t find the joke funny. Arceneaux called Jones’ quip “disrespectful”. Both Elliott and his agent have every right to be offended by Jones’ remark. In the NFL today, owners can’t make comments like that and not expect some level of resentment in return.
Jone’s remark is also offensive because no one in their right mind would even jokingly put Pollard’s name in the same sentence as Elliott’s. The Cowboys took Pollard in the fourth round. The Memphis product split time between running back and wide receiver in college. Elliott posted two years with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in college. Then, he made a seamless transition to the NFL. Don’t try to use Pollard as leverage, because it looks like a desperate tactic.
Dallas’ offense will struggle without Elliott. The Cowboys offense ranked tenth in rushing last season. Since 2014, Dallas’ rushing attack has always finished in the top ten. The team runs the ball to open up the passing game for Prescott. That’s why the offense hasn’t finished in the top ten for passing yards since 2012. The Cowboys have an offensive line that features Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith. The team has made the most of that situation by running the ball as often as possible. Removing Elliott from the formula changes the basis of the offense.
Going back to when Elliott was suspended six games in 2017, the Cowboys lost their first three games without him. In those three games, Dallas scored a combined 22 points and were outscored by a combined 70 points. As a team, the Cowboys generated 298 rushing yards during those three games. The lowest three-game rushing total Elliott had in 2018 was 245 in Weeks 7-10. Dallas had a bye in Week 8. His highest three-game rushing total last season was 394 yards in Weeks 10-12.
Elliott plays a role in the passing game as well. In his first two seasons, he contributed less than three receptions for fewer than 30 yards per game. Last season, he showed his growth and caught 5.1 receptions for 37.8 receiving yards per game. He finished the season with 77 receptions, 567 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. That means he led Dallas in receptions, was third on the team in receiving yards, and was tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
Elliott put up 95.6 rushing yards and 37.8 receiving yards per game last season. There’s no way for Dallas’s offense to replace that production. They won’t even get close. The best thing for Jones to do is end Elliott’s holdout now by giving him the mega-contract that he deserves.