Time to question Ezekiel Elliott’s future with the Cowboys

Syndication: The Enquirer
Syndication: The Enquirer /

One can’t help but wonder if the Dallas Cowboys truly need the services of Ezekiel Elliott

In many ways, Ezekiel Elliott was dubbed the “Chosen One”. The Dallas Cowboys handpicked the running back four years ago, exercising their fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Elliott was picked to turn the misfortunes in Big D around, to give then quarterback Tony Romo jet fuel, to give the organization some serious wings to fly.

Elliott accomplished this much up to the point Jerry Jones sliced him a new check. The Dallas Cowboys clearly favored him, offering him new coin over the franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott. To this day, Prescott still does not have a long-term deal. Linebacker Jaylon Smith was cut a new check. DeMarcus Lawrence got some love earlier, too.

In 2019, the star running back did the unthinkable before the start of the season. He held out, demanding a new contract even though there was time left on his rookie contract. Jerry Jones caved in, reassuring to himself and the team that the Elliott was the rocket fuel to a possible sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Elliott signed a mega-contract, a six-year extension worth $90 million. $50 million in guarantees. Jerry Jones assured the Chosen One would be in a Dallas uniform until the 2026 season.

Elliott was fed the dollar signs and in return, was fed the football. In 2019, the running back made good on his contract, rushing the ball 301 times for 1,357 rushing yards and 12 scores. He averaged 4.5 yards a pop. In addition, he caught 54 balls, averaging 7.8 yards per pass. He totaled 420 receiving yards.

Elliott is now 25 years of age. Still in his prime, one must wonder if the workhorse is on the decline. How many more totes does Elliott, a three-time Pro Bowler, have left in the tank? And more importantly, should the Dallas Cowboys consider his trade value now while Elliott is still in prime mode?

Frankly, the ‘Boys have many holes to fill on both sides of the ball. The most important is rebuilding the front wall. With Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Zack Martin a year older, with more bruises and scratches, the Cowboys must reestablish the offensive line. Of course, the “Great Wall” is something Elliott flourished under over the year.

Interestingly, Elliott could not prove the same results without a strong offensive line. It’s hard to put all the fault at the running back’s feet. But without a strong front line, is it feasible to continue down the same road with a different result? Is this not the definition of insanity?

Should the Cowboys feed Elliott the ball with third-tier talent blocking in front of him? Would it benefit the franchise to refocus on the line first, even if it costs them their star running back via trade?

Elliott is rocket fuel for the offense. But there are other ways to use this resource. Elliott could be served on the trade block, something that was unthinkable in 2019 when he was demanding a new contract. It was a smack to the face for the Cowboys, who ended up caving in. But with Elliott’s numbers in decline, perhaps this is an opportunity for Jerry Jones to have the last word.

In 2020, Elliott has only eclipsed the century mark once. In 13 games so far, he has 832 rushing yards on 211 rushes. He is averaging 3.9 yards a pop. Elliott has five rushing scores. He has coughed up the ball six times, with four of those registered as fumbles lost.

In terms of 2020 rankings, Elliott’s 832 rushing yards ranks him 11th in the league. If you think the Cowboys weren’t feeding him enough, you might be surprised. His 211 rushing attempts rank him fifth in the NFL. His average of 3.9 yards per attempt places him 40th in the NFL.

Did Tony Pollard‘s performance on Sunday in a win over the San Francisco 49ers usher in a new era at the running back spot? Maybe. Maybe not.

It did show that this offense can run just fine on different rocket fuel, even without a star-studded front line at the helm. Maybe there is something to Pollard after all.

Pollard rushed the ball 12 times for 69 yards. He earned two rushing scores. More importantly, he averaged nearly six yards a pop, but most of that came off a nice run towards the end of the game where he broke three tacklers. In addition, Pollard caught six passes for 63 yards.

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Is Pollard the answer to Elliott? No. Nobody is suggesting he is the successor to be the next Zeke. But clearly, Pollard doesn’t have to be that type of player to succeed. He’s doing fine just the way he is. And when the cameras point at Elliott during Pollard’s celebration dances, you have to wonder what type of worry is going through the mind of the Chosen One.