This Hall of Famer’s take on Ezekiel Elliott might worry fans of the Dallas Cowboys
One of the many mounting disappointments surrounding the 2020 version of the Dallas Cowboys has been the play of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Fresh off signing a monstrous six-year, $90 million contract extension last September, expectations were sky-high.
But eight games into his fifth year in Dallas, Elliott is on pace to post his worst statistical season since missing six-games due to a suspension back in 2017. Playing in just 10 games that year, Zeke still recorded 983 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
Midway through the 2020 season, the 25-year old Elliott has posted only 521 rushing yards and five touchdowns while averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. He also has 34 receptions for 220 yards and another score.
Posting pedestrian numbers when the 2-6 Cowboys are desperate for an offensive leader to take charge, Elliott has been a relative no-show. As a result, the offensive output by Dallas has gone from averaging 32.6 points per game with quarterback Dak Prescott under center to an embarrassing 7.3 points over their last three games without him.
And Elliott? He’s averaging just 52.3 rushing yards per game without Prescott as well. And he’s failed to pass the 100-yard rushing mark in a single contest yet this season.
Here’s what Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman told The Musers during a radio interview this week on 96.7 FM/1310 AM, The Ticket when asked about why he believes Elliott has struggled so much this season.
"” … I think that the wear and tear, [Elliott’s] a physical runner. He runs as hard as anybody that I’ve ever seen quite honestly. And I think he’s a great finisher and all that. But that begins to take a toll. And it starts to happen about this time.”"
Aikman would also mention that Dallas runs the ball the second-least amount in the NFL on first and second down. And that’s despite the fact the Cowboys built their offensive line and drafted Elliott specifically to run the football.
Although Aikman’s take on why Elliott is struggling isn’t earth-shattering, it certainly cause for concern. If he’s right, fans will see less and less of the version of Zeke that rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie.
And instead, they’ll see more and more of an aging veteran who struggles to break tackles, drops on first contact, and no longer possesses the speed to break off long runs. In 2016, Elliott had 14 runs of 20 yards or more. This season, through eight starts, he’s posted only a single run beyond the 20-yard mark.
Dallas Cowboys have made Ezekiel Elliott one of the league’s highest-paid running backs
This is all especially worrisome considering Elliott is under contract in Dallas until 2027. And he’s currently scheduled to make $22 million in base salary over the next two seasons according to Spotrac.com.
Elliott’s salary cap hit this year was $10.9 million. And it will go up in 2021 (13.7M) and 2022 (16.5M). OverTheCap.com has Zeke tied as the second-highest paid running back in the NFL this year in average annual salary, sitting at $15 million per season.
Certainly, injuries along the Cowboys’ offensive line and at the quarterback position have hurt Elliott’s production this season. Unfortunately, Zeke has also failed to rise to the challenge and carry the team in return. In fact, his league-leading four fumbles have often made his underwhelming play a detriment.
Troy Aikman’s warning that the wear and tear of his five-year NFL career is starting to take its physical toll on Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t bode well for Dallas. If his play continues to decline, the Cowboys’ struggles could continue to rise as their massive financial commitment to Zeke ties him to the franchise for the foreseeable future.