3 Dallas Cowboys who need to have a great training camp
By Mitch Larson
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
If I’m being 100% honest, it feels a bit weird placing running back Ezekiel Elliott on a list of players who need to have a good training camp, but it’s undeniably true. Elliott is coming off what is easily the worst season of his career and needs to turn it around quickly. While I don’t think he is in any sort of danger of being cut right now, he could stand to see a sharp reduction in his role if he doesn’t have a great camp.
Sure, injuries forced the Dallas Cowboys to construct a patchwork offensive line and play with a revolving door at quarterback last season. While those factors surely didn’t give him much support, Elliott didn’t help himself a ton either.
His six fumbles were the most of any non-quarterback in football and they were an absolute backbreaker time and time again last season. On top of that, he just seemed to lack some of the explosiveness he showcased earlier in his career. By the end of the 2020 season, he was rightfully losing touches to second-year back Tony Pollard.
Elliott wearing down was always a concern. Since entering the league in 2016 no running back has more carries than Zeke. Former Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley is a distant second with 182 fewer carries in four more career games.
At some point, the sheer volume of usage he’s had is going to take its toll. That said, it’s also worth noting though that since he was drafted no running back has more yards than Elliott and he ranks third in rushing touchdowns.
Can Ezekiel Elliott bounce back for the Dallas Cowboys?
To Zeke’s credit, he seems to be on track to have a bounce-back season. Elliott hasn’t been shy about posting his workout videos and it looks like he’s genuinely been putting in the work. Quarterback Dak Prescott even recently said that the running back is in the “best shape of his life”.
Elliott will turn 26 later this month, but he’s led the NFL in rushing yards twice and is already the franchise’s third all-time leading rusher. Yet, 2021 is a bit of a crossroads for him, and the cap hit that comes from his six-year mega extension that he signed during his 2019 hold out, surely doesn’t help matters.
For what it’s worth, I am expecting a big season out of Elliott and I think that he could end up being a sneaky Comeback Player of the Year candidate when it’s all said and done. To do that though, he needs to get those fumbles under control and find a way to keep his explosiveness.
If he doesn’t prove he’s on the right track in training camp, he might go from the lead back to finding himself in a more evenly split committee with Tony Pollard. If that’s the case, this could end up being Elliott’s final season with the Dallas Cowboys.