Mike McCarthy's plan for Ezekiel Elliott won't make Jerry Jones happy

This won't make Jerry Jones a happy camper...
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages

Contract extensions for Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb are the overarching storylines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys as OTAs get underway, but the running back position is right there in terms of prominent and polarizing talking points.

Mike McCarthy will be hoping the running game improves in 2024. Third-round pick Cooper Beebe replacing Tyler Biadasz at center should pay big dividends. The Cowboys clearly believe that an improved offensive line will make a bigger impact than their new-look stable of running backs.

The current iteration of Dallas' RB room might be the worst in the league. Ezekiel Elliott is back after a one-year stint in New England and he's arguably the best back in the rotation despite the fact he's entering his age-29 season and has suffered a sharp decline in efficiency over the last two seasons.

Cowboys fans are eager to learn how Elliott will be used this season. Jerry Jones still believes Elliott can handle a big workload, but McCarthy's latest comments on the two-time rushing champ fly in the face of Jones' stance.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones won't like Mike McCarthy's plan for Ezekiel Elliott

"We’re a running back by committee. But I think he’ll definitely play at the level that he’s played at in my time here. I don’t see any drop-off in the way he moves. He’s in good shape. He has come in here and picked up right where he left off."

Cowboys' HC Mike McCarthy

Before the Cowboys even signed Elliott, Jones waxed poetic on him. Jones praised how Elliott finished the 2023 season with the Patriots and said with conviction that "he's good enough to be a starter." Now that Elliott is officially back in Dallas, Jones likely thinks he can handle 15-20 carries per game.

Luckily it seems McCarthy doesn't see eye-to-eye with the Cowboys' owner. While Elliott can be productive in a RB committee, Jones is totally off-base thinking Zeke is primed to log 200-plus carries like he did in 2022.

That season, Elliott averaged a then-career-low 3.8 yards per carry. That ranked dead-last among 22 RBs that tallied at least 200 carries, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He was also bottom-five in yards after contact per attempt and missed tackles forced.

That number dropped to 3.5 yards per attempt in 2023 on 47 fewer touches. That was once again dead-last among RBs who rushed at least 180 times, per PFF. In addition, Zeke forced the second-fewest missed tackles and ranked sixth in yards after contact per attempt.

Elliott produced decent yardage in his final five games for the Patriots, but it's likely Jones' opinion was influenced by peeking at the box scores of those games and catching some highlights. Maybe Jones formed his opinion out of thin air. We certainly wouldn't put that past him. What matters is that McCarthy knows what's best for the Cowboys' offense.

In the year 2024 that means Elliott in a part-time role.

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