This would take some serious getting used to.
With the NFL expected to pass an amendment that’d relax its strict jersey number policy, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott teased a move from No. 21 to No. 15 — the digits he rocked at Ohio State — for the 2021 season.
Below is a mockup of said move, courtesy of Bleacher Report.
— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) April 8, 2021
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A Trend Forms
Elliott is among multiple Cowboys players who in recent days have hinted at a number change. The first to do so was linebacker Jaylon Smith, who aired the No. 9 he wore in high school and college — and that previously belonged to franchise legend Tony Romo.
It's possible the NFL soon allows linebackers (and other positions) to have jersey numbers in the single digits.
Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith posted on his Instagram story that he would like to wear number 9 if that is the case.
Jaylon wore 9 at Notre Dame and in high school. pic.twitter.com/g3EyGWI7WL
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) April 6, 2021
Then, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who wore No. 2 at Oklahoma, indicated he’s open to switching from No. 88, the number that Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones strongarmed him into donning.
Fellow pass-catcher Michael Gallup also joined the party, suggesting quarterback Dak Prescott surrenders his No. 4 to him. Because why not?
we are officially being trolled lmfao pic.twitter.com/T0qOjSGD5I
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) April 6, 2021
For now, however, the ideas are just that … ideas. According to Mike Fisher of SI.com, the Cowboys’ front office, which assumingly must greenlight the ventures, has “not been approached about a single-digit jersey switch.”
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History Behind No. 15
As mentioned, Elliott draped these numerical identifiers across his chest while starring for the Buckeyes from 2013-15. Upon being drafted by Dallas, he settled on iconic No. 21, made famous by Hall-of-Fame defensive back Deion Sanders.
“Couldn’t wear 15 in the NFL but 21 looks like 15 in the mirror,” Elliott tweeted in 2016.
Fifteen isn’t as famous in Cowboys’ canon. Not at all, actually. Only nine players in the team’s illustrious history have worn it: Toni Fritsch, Cornell Burbage, Babe Laufenberg, Manuel Johnson, Andre Holmes, Micheal Spurlock, Devin Street, Deonte Thompson, and, most recently, in 2019, Devin Smith.
Concerning Fact Surfaces About Zeke
It doesn’t matter what number Elliott goes into battle with if he cannot hang onto the football. And, unfortunately for the Cowboys, the two-time league rushing champ is extremely adroit at not hanging onto the football.
As CBS Sports shared last month, Elliott leads all NFL running backs by a wide margin with three seasons of five-plus fumbles since 2016, his rookie campaign. For context: eight different RBs have logged one such season over that span.
Most seasons with 5+ fumbles for RBs since 2016:
1. Ezekiel Elliott 3
2. 8 players tied 1 pic.twitter.com/rdA5bq9EXj
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) March 28, 2021
You can count on a single finger how many times Elliott’s posted fewer than three fumbles in a given year amid his tenure in the silver and blue; that occurred during his suspension-ruined 2017 (1 fumble). The issue peaked the following season with six, dropped significantly in 2019 (3), and skyrocketed again in 2020 (6).
Elliott lost four fumbles across a six-week period last season, culminating in his mid-October benching during a nationally televised defeat to Arizona. He let slip through his fingers yet another ball in a Thanksgiving blowout loss to Washington, the final miscue punctuating a career-worst showing for the Cowboys’ $90 million investment.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL