Dallas Cowboys: Why Ezekiel Elliott deserves more respect
By Nathan Jones
Much of the offseason talk surrounding the Dallas Cowboys pertains to Dak Prescott’s contract status. But right now, let’s focus in on the running back.
All the TV heads like to talk about running backs like Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, or Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley. For some reason Dallas Cowboys‘ running back Ezekiel Elliott does not get enough attention. Considering how much attention opposing defenses give Elliott, his skill set should be talked about more.
Elliott has won the rushing title two of his three years in the league. If not for a ridiculous abuse of power from the commissioner (suspension}, he would be the three-time rushing leader. Elliott has rushed for 4,048 yards in three seasons. Compare these numbers to legendary running back Emmitt Smith‘s first three years in the league, 4,213 yards, and one can clearly see Elliott is on the right track.
Elliott is a physical downhill runner who punishes linebackers and defensive backs. And he even has shown progress in his career. He is mastering patience behind the line of scrimmage and exploding through rushing lanes.
Earlier this offseason, ex-NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew claimed Elliott is the fourth best running back in the league. This is asinine. Elliott is not just a dominant rusher of the football, he has other tools too.
Last season, Elliott caught 77 receptions for 567 yards and six touchdowns. Every year of Elliott’s career, his receiving yards per game has gone up: From 24.2, 26.9, to 37.8 receiving yards per game.
Many of these receptions were just check-downs which makes those numbers even greater. Heading into 2019, the offense supposedly will look more diverse than scripted. Elliott will likely get more looks earlier in the passing progression.
Elliott still has work to do on his routes and hands, just like all pass-catchers do. However, he is one of the best receiving backs in the league.
Another reason Elliott is the best running back in the NFL is his durability. Elliott never gets taken off the field because of an injury. Don’t get me wrong, last year he was getting dinged up pretty bad towards the last stretch of the season, but Elliott still lined up and produced. This is an outstanding accomplishment for a running back.
Of all of Smith’s legendary traits, his durability might be the most impressive. In a high impact position such as running backs, being able to stay on the field every game shows a high level of physical and mental toughness.
Who knows, maybe Smith whispered his secret to longevity to Elliott? Nonetheless, Elliott is one of the most feared players in the league.
According to Next Gen Stats, Elliott faced eight or more defenders in the box on 24.67 percent of rushes. Barkley faced a loaded box on 22.99 percent of rushes and for Gurley only 8.2 percent.
Elliott should be the favorite to win the rushing title once again. He is still trying to get a contract extension, but he is content to play this season without one. Though he has had a few hiccups in off time throughout his career, Elliott is still one of the leaders on the team.
Elliott’s dominance will not get talked about this offseason, primarily because there aren’t a ton of question marks in his play. Most of those questions have been answered already in his first three years. With more motions and shifts pre-snap to out-leverage and deceive defenses, Elliott will flourish that much more. Put simply, Elliott is about to feast in 2019.
Where would you rank Ezekiel Elliott amongst the top running backs in the NFL? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below!