It’s no secret that Ezekiel Elliott — the reigning NFL rushing champion — will be a large part of the Dallas Cowboys offense. That’s been the case since he exploded on the scene as a rookie.
Last year, Elliott had a monster workload, with 304 rushes — 43 more than any other player — to go with 77 catches, collecting 2,001 yards from scrimmage.
But with first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore coming in, the Cowboys are looking to adjust Elliott’s workload to make it manageable to peak in the playoffs without too much wear and tear.
Moore said on Wednesday at OTAs that he will take a read and react approach to the situation.
“At the end of the day, we want to get him as many touches as we can. At the same time, you got to recognize what a 16-plus game season is,” Moore told reporters. “We’ll see how it progresses (with the other RBs), but if we can get it to Zeke, we’re gonna get it to Zeke.”
Running backs coach Gary Brown said it’s on the play callers to keep Zeke’s workload manageable.
“You would like to be in a range but you can’t put a number on it,” Brown told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We have to do a good job trying to control his touches. The game is going to dictate what is going to happen.”
Elliott has never shown signs of wanting a decreased workload, but it could do him good, especially with capable backups in the mix.
One player the Cowboys have high hopes for is Tony Pollard, the team’s fourth round pick in this year’s draft out of Memphis.
Pollard has drawn comparisons to New Orleans Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara as an all-purpose type of weapon for the Cowboys.
“I know people think he’s going to be this gadget guy,” Brown said. “He’s more than that. He’s bigger than what you think he is and he runs powerful for a guy you think is a gadget guy. I think he can do all our runs and more.”
“He’s done a great job with all the running backs, just getting us together, having us over his house for cookouts, and just bonding,” Pollard told the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota. “In here he’s been helping us with little pointers and things we can sharpen up and get our game better with.”
Moore is still in the initial stages of installing the offense. The Cowboys have used the offseason workouts to pour the foundation, and will build the house during minicamp and training camp.
But as far as the game plan goes, Moore maintains he’s “seeing how things progress.”
The Cowboys are also seeing how things progress off the field. Elliott was detained and handcuffed following an incident with a security guard at a concert in Las Vegas last month and the NFL is investigating the situation under the personal conduct policy.
The team is optimistic Elliott could escape without a suspension, but have made it clear to the 23-year-old star that he needs to be more careful.
“It’s a situation you don’t want to be in, but we all make mistakes,” Brown said. “Even the greatest leaders make mistakes. We have to be understanding of that. We have talked to him about doing better and moving forward. We can’t beat him down for that. Obviously, we don’t want him in that situation. We talked to him and move on. He understands, ‘I can’t put myself in that position. I have got to be smarter.’ We all make mistakes.”
Elliott has not spoken to the media since the incident.