Ezekiel Elliott will remain the Dallas Cowboys‘ workhorse despite committing his third and fourth fumbles of the year, infractions that warranted his temporary removal from Monday Night Football.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed no permanent changes to the backfield ahead of a Week 7 road trip to Washington.
“Yes. Zeke Elliott will be starting this week. Yeah,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday.
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Elliott was benched in the second quarter of Monday’s 38-10 loss to Arizona, sat down by McCarthy after his latter fumble. The Cardinals converted the miscue into points, staking an early 14-0 lead their opponent never recovered from. Out came Elliott and in came 2019 preseason sensation RB Tony Pollard, who handled eight first-string snaps and was a significant factor throughout the humiliating defeat.
Dallas re-inserted Zeke on the ensuing drive, but the message was sent — and received.
“They did the right thing,” Elliott said after the game, via USA Today. “I’m giving the ball away. I wasn’t helping the team. … I’m supposed to be a guy that this team can lean on when times get rough, and I just wasn’t that today.”
Elliott never atoned for his butterfingers against the Cardinals, plodding his way to 49 scoreless yards on 12 carries. Pollard finished a close second with 10 totes (more than his last two appearances combined) for 31 yards, adding two receptions for nine yards.
Ball security is job security, regardless of salary. But rather than admonish the $90 million running back, McCarthy echoed the status quo, throwing Elliott a vote of confidence in the wake of Dallas’ fourth loss in six tries.
“At the end of the day, Zeke is our bellcow,” he said after the game. “We need to get it right. He’s part of the plan. He’s going to be a part of our success. So, we have to get it right. We have to take care of the football.”
It proved to be a teachable moment for the collective. Following a public apology issued through the media, McCarthy revealed Tuesday that Elliott addressed his teammates privately, vowing to play better.
“It’s very important to him. …I’ve been so impressed with Zeke,” he said, via the Dallas Morning News. “He’s such a team player. He’s a great locker room guy.”
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Zeke to Eat vs. WFT?
It’s a good bet that Pollard, explosive in his own right, is given a full-time uptick in reps, but nothing that’ll drastically affect Elliott’s RB1 workload. In fact, with Dak Prescott replacement Andy Dalton neutering the offense under center, the latter should remain the centerpiece of the operation.
The duo gets a juicy on-paper matchup against Washington, owners of the NFL’s 24th-ranked run defense, bleeding 130.0 ground yards per game. Last week, they gave up 10.6 YPC to Giants quarterback Daniel Jones.
Elliott crossed the century mark in two starts versus the Cowboys’ NFC East foe in 2019, totaling 233 rushing yards and two touchdowns across 41 attempts. He’s yet to notch a 100-yard effort this season.
“I’ve just got to lock in and focus. …Just watch as much film as I can, gather as much information as I can,” he told reporters Wednesday, per the Dallas Morning News.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL