Realistic expectations for Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott in 2024

After returning to Dallas following one season in New England, the expectations for Ezekiel Elliott are still to be determined.
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott came together again months ago after Elliott spent one season in New England with the Patriots. The Cowboys were in need of backfield help after they lost Tony Pollard to free agency. They opted not to spend money on a replacement and surprisingly left the NFL draft without a running back.

The No. 4 overall pick in 2016, Elliott signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal to return to the team that drafted him out of Ohio State.

Elliott has enjoyed many highs while with the Cowboys. He's third on the franchise's all-time rushing list and he's been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL since he entered the league, ranking second in rushing yards and touchdowns, and first in yards after contact.

Despite Elliott's distinguished career, Dallas did not sign him to be the player he was in his prime. Therefore, Cowboys Nation should temper expectations for the two-time rushing champ.

What Cowboys fans can expect from Ezekiel Elliott in 2024

Approaching his 29th birthday, Elliott will not be the every-down workhorse he once was. The days of Zeke being fed 250-plus carries are long over.

Elliott is coming off a modest 2023 campaign with the Patriots in which he finished with 642 rushing yards on 3.4 yards per carry. These numbers were all career lows for him. Elliott split the backfield with Rhamondre Stevenson, who also put together a subpar season behind a shaky New England offensive line.

After watching Elliott last season, it's fair to label him an averaging running back. That does not mean he can't bring value to Dallas in 2024, however.

Elliott has always been praised for his versatility as a runner and many believe that a hint of that is still in his tank. The three-time Pro Bowler can be counted on in a variety of formations and schemes. He can also pass protect with the best of them. You can bet he'll be used a lot to protect Dak Prescott.

Elliott has also been a solid pass-catching running back over his career and he proved that further last season hauling in 51 receptions. For Elliott to be that effective with a New England quarterback room that was one of the worst in the league is outstanding. With the chemistry he has always had with quarterback Dak Prescott, Zeke could have another solid season in this department.

With Dallas lacking quality runners behind Elliott, the running back room will likely be led by Zeke. Mike McCarthy emphasized a running back-by-committee for 2024, but ultimately due to the limited experience of the Cowboys' other RBs, nobody poses a real threat to hog all of the carries.

Will Elliott rush for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns? Probably not. But can he come close and uplift this Dallas offense? You bet. The two-time NFL rushing leader should not have to meet hefty expectations going into 2024. His presence alone and being back where it all began is rewarding enough.

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