Coming off a down season, Ezekiel Elliott, the running back for the Dallas Cowboys is surely entering his sixth year in the NFL with a chip on his shoulder. And the early reports of his play during OTAs have been positive.
The veteran running back, who turns 26-years old next month, is coming off the worst overall performance of his career. Despite starting 15 games for Dallas in 2020, Zeke posted career-lows in rushing yards (979) and combined touchdowns (8). Elliott also tied a career-high with six fumbles, losing five of them.
And the fact the Cowboys lost their starting quarterback, Dak Prescott, for the season in Week Five to an ankle injury only compounded the pressure on Elliott to carry the team in 2020. Unfortunately, without Prescott under center, Dallas would go on to lose six of their next seven games and ultimately ended the disappointing season with a 6-10 record.
While injuries and poor defensive play certainly aided the Cowboys in their losing efforts, Elliott’s performance shares in the blame as well. And while the lack of a consistent passing threat under center plus major injuries suffered across the offensive line offer excuses as to why Zeke was unable to perform at his best last year, the two-time NFL rushing leader surely has something to prove entering this upcoming season.
Apparently, the work Elliott has put in during the offseason is already starting to show at OTAs. Here’s what former NFL scout and Cowboys analyst for 105.3 The Fan, Bryan Broaddus, had to say after watching Zeke during a session this past week.
"“Zeke, a couple of times, jump cut, the defender comes at you, plant, avoid, get out of the way with some quickness. Those drills that we’ve been seeing on social media look like they’re paying off a little bit … when you talk about his footwork, clearly it’s been something he’s been very conscious of because there were a couple of times where he got into the hole and was able to bounce it outside with a quick move and I was thinking ‘Oh, I haven’t seen that in a little time’.”"
According to overthecap.com, Elliott enters the 2021 NFL regular season tied for second-most in the league in yearly average salary for running backs making $15 million per season. That after Zeke inked a massive six-year, $90 million contract extension back in September of 2019 with a whopping $103 million scheduled to be paid out over eight years and $50 million guaranteed.
With that kind of contract soaking up salary cap space in Dallas, expectations are sky high for Ezekiel Elliott. And the fact Zeke failed to crack the 1,000 rushing yard mark last season, coming in 11th in the NFL in that category last year, is disappointing. But it appears that’s also motivated Elliott this offseason to do what he can not to post a repeat performance in 2021.