Just when you thought the 2020 season could not get worse for the Dallas Cowboys …
For the first time in his prolific five-year NFL career, running back Ezekiel Elliott will not be in the starting lineup. The Cowboys declared Elliott inactive for Sunday’s game against the 49ers due to a nagging calf injury.
The calf issue popped up on Dec. 9 after Elliott was listed as a limited practice participant. He gutted through it in Dallas’ win over Cincinnati, converting 12 carries into 48 scoreless yards, but his burst was very obviously hampered.
Elliott remained limited in practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as the team readied for its home contest versus San Francisco. He was officially listed as questionable, though the Dallas Morning News reported he would play.
As did both head coach Mike McCarthy and owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
“I would say I think understandably he’s a little further away this week than he was last week because he played in the game,” McCarthy said. “But I still plan on him playing Sunday. Today will be important and the amount of work he gets tomorrow (in practice) will factor. But all things look like he’s going to play in the game.”
“He wrote the book on how to play with pain,” Jones said.
ALL the latest Dallas Cowboys news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cowboys newsletter here!Sign up for the Heavy on Cowboys Newsletter!
Next Man Up
That would be impressive sophomore RB Tony Pollard, whose usage has steadily increased over the last month. Pollard handled 11 totes for 39 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. He has 339 yards and two TDs on 75 attempts across 13 appearances, adding 18 receptions for 103 yards and one score through the air.
Pollard and now-second-stringer Rico Dowdle may have their work cut out facing a 49ers defense that ranks eighth in the league in rushing, surrendering just 105.8 yards per game. (UPDATE: Pollard scored on a one-yard first-quarter run against the 49ers.)
Follow the Heavy on Cowboys Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Cowboys Predicted to Trade Zeke in 2021
Projecting the biggest trades to come in 2021, Bleacher Report columnist Chris Roling urged the Cowboys to send Ezekiel Elliott to the New York Jets for a second-round draft pick.
If the Cowboys want to unload Elliott and get some cap wiggle room, a team like the New York Jets would make plenty of sense. The winless Jets sit with the second-most projected cap space in 2021 at more than $81 million and figure to use the No. 1 pick on a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence.
Those Jets could send a second-rounder to the Cowboys for Elliott, who they can use to absorb workhorse punishment while a rookie learns on the fly. The front office could then use the out in Elliott’s contract after the 2022 season.
Unless the Jets agree to shoulder a majority of his contract, or Elliott agrees to restructure to facilitate the transaction, this trade is unlikely to materialize. According to OverTheCap.com, Dallas would absorb a cap-killing $24.5 million dead-money hit, with $10.8 million in savings, by moving Elliott pre- or post-June 1.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL