Ezekiel Elliott has offered the ultimate football sacrifice.
With a multitude of mouths to feed on the Dallas Cowboys‘ offense and only so many scraps to go around, the NFL‘s highest-paid running back expressed a willingness to share what’s on his plate — even if it means going hungry himself.
“I mean, I’ve been pretty durable through my career. … 300 carries every season … haven’t seemed to be slowing down yet. But if they ever came to me and asked me to split carries, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do whatever they ask me to do to win,” Elliott said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “That’s my number one thing. I love being the bell-cow. I love getting the rock 30 times a game. I do. But whatever this team needs me to do to win that’s what I’m gonna do.”‘
Elliott indeed crossed the 300-carry mark in 2019, taking 301 totes for 1,357 yards (4.5 YPC) and 12 touchdowns en route to his third career Pro Bowl selection. He was an offensive focal point, spearheading the NFL’s sixth-ranked ground attack. And he rendered electric rookie backup Tony Pollard obsolete.
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Making 15 appearances, oftentimes the lone gameday back behind Elliott, Pollard demonstrated explosive dual-threat abilities, totaling 455 yards and two TDs on 86 attempts (5.3 yards YPC). The fourth-round pick chipped in 107 yards and one TD on 15 receptions.
Pollard was mostly mothballed but made every rep count. He finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ second-highest-graded rookie rusher (82.9), trailing only then-Oakland’s Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, Josh Jacobs (87.2).
The arrival of new head coach Mike McCarthy this offseason and McCarthy’s subsequent boast that Elliott is “going to get the football” in his system spelled little hope for Pollard’s breakout opportunity. But McCarthy’s system is a hybrid, co-produced by coordinator Kellen Moore, a holdover from the Jason Garrett regime, and Moore similarly promised to “get them the ball.”
“It’s a get-the-best-players-the-ball offense,” Moore told reporters in January, via The Athletic. “Up there, they were able to throw the rock a bunch. Hey, that’s absolutely what you should be doing. We got some other pieces here, and we’ll be trying to figure out what our formula is for that, but I don’t see any concern with that.
“We got a running back who is really good and another one behind him (Tony Pollard) who is really good, and we want to get them the ball.”
Realistically, Elliott isn’t relinquishing his RB1 title, nor will he be asked to, as long as he stays healthy and, by association, hyper-productive. Still just 25 years old, he’s in line for another 1,300-plus-yard, double-digit-TD campaign and out to prove he’s the premier player at his position.
Check the stats. Since I entered this league I have dominated year in, year out. Put some RESPECT on my name.
— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) July 16, 2020
However, when his supporting cast consists of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb — with Dak Prescott running point — he’s resigned to a dimmer spotlight.
“We all gonna EAT,” he tweeted on Aug. 5.
Because if there’s anything Zeke likes more than eating, it’s winning.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL