Of all the things to criticize about the Dallas Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones has honed in on the surprisingly sluggish ground attack.
“We’re not quite obviously consistently taking the thing that we are the best at and running that down the other team’s throat,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday, via ESPN’s Ed Werder. “We’re not doing that. We can do that, and that’s frustrating.”
As Werder notes, the problem is systematic. Elliott is averaging the fewest attempts per game — 18.9 — of his four-year NFL tenure, which has included two rushing titles and a pair of Pro Bowl selections. He’s also compiling his worst yards-per-game average (82.5) as a pro.
Elliott tied a season-low with just 12 carries in last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. It was his fourth straight game under 100 yards, something that hasn’t happened since 2013, when he was a true freshman at Ohio State, according to NFL Research.
But don’t blame the ballcarrier. Not entirely, anyway. Zeke has worked behind an ever-shifting and injury-racked offensive line, and there have been times, such as in the Week 12 loss to New England, that he’s the best Cowboys player on the field. The team has shifted to a pass-heavy approach, benefitting Dak Prescott, who leads the league in passing yards amid a career year.
Kellen Moore’s offense isn’t big enough for two stars. When Prescott thrives, Elliott usually takes a back seat. This essentially is how Jones wanted it after firing previous offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and replacing him with Moore, the 31-year-old wunderkind and former quarterback.
On the other hand, it’s hard to blame Jones for wanting a return on his massive investment. “Zeke who?” has assumed a bigger, more concerning meaning than what it was months ago: a playful barb.
This, to Jones, is no laughing matter.
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Tough Sledding for Elliott vs. Bears?
If the Cowboys’ franchise back couldn’t make hay against the 14th-ranked Bills run defense, he may have a long day at the office in the Windy City. Chicago places seventh in that same category, surrendering 97.5 yards per game. Just two RBs — Oakland’s Josh Jacobs and New Orleans’ Latavius Murray — have crossed the century mark on the Bears’ stifling front-seven.
Motivation is trending in Dallas’ favor, however. The squad emerged from the embarrassing Bills defeat with a renewed sense of emotion. Elliott described his teammates as “pissed off” and itching to release their aggression.
“Great energy, guys were on their stuff,” Elliott said of Sunday’s practice, per ESPN. “Guys had a little stuff in their neck, just a little chippy and ready to go.”
Tony Pollard Banged Up
Elliott’s handcuff, fourth-round rookie and preseason sensation Tony Pollard, missed practice Tuesday due to a knee injury he purportedly suffered while running a route against the Bills.
If Pollard cannot go Thursday, Dallas will need to make a roster move, as he’s the lone backup behind Elliott. In this scenario, they likely would promote rookie seventh-rounder Mike Weber from the practice squad to the 53-man active roster.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL