Perhaps the Dallas Cowboys would not agree, and certainly after two NFL weeks, they would have appeared to be right. But Week 3 was … different.
And for former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, with Dallas heading into a collision with the Patriots and running back Ezekiel Elliott, it’s become clear that the Cowboys miss their former Pro Bowl star, the same guy who had appeared to be finished in the NFL to so many over the last few years.
This after the Cowboys put up just 16 points in a rough Week 3 loss to the lowly Cardinals, and after Elliott tallied a season-high 80 yards for the Patriots against the Jets.
In a discussion about whether Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was reluctant to run in short yardage situations on ESPN’s “Get Up” morning show, Griffin turned the conversation to Elliott, who quite enjoys short-yardage situations.
“The problem I have is, it felt like for two, three years, everyone at this network and around the world was talking about Zeke being washed. But the bottom line is the Dallas Cowboys miss Zeke right now,” Griffin said (H/T to NESN.com). “Last year, he was 17-for-21 on third and fourth down conversions — short-yardage situations. In the Red Zone, when you have a hammer like Ezekiel Elliott, it can take a lot of pressure off of the quarterback.”
Ezekiel Elliott Dumped by Cowboys in March
The Cowboys dumped Elliott back in March, a move that helped save the team some of the sting of Elliott’s $16.7 million salary-cap hit (he was the highest-paid player at his position) by spreading it over two seasons. Of course, the Cowboys would have been glad to pay Elliott that money, except that his production had dwindled considerably, from a league-high 1,631 yards on 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie in 2016 down to 836 yards last year, on 3.8 yards per carry.
Elliott had lost the job of primary Cowboys back to Tony Pollard. When the Cowboys had to decide what to do with Elliott, releasing him was the only sensible option.
Still, Elliott was not happy to be leaving Dallas.
“I would say I was definitely disappointed, but everything happens for a reason,” Elliott said after Sunday’s win, per Marc Daniels of MassLive. “God has his plan for us. I’m excited for this next chapter in life. I’m excited to be a Patriot. I’m excited to go chase a Super Bowl here.”
Ezekiel Elliott Twice Led the League for the Cowboys
For the first five seasons of his career, Elliott was arguably the best running back in the NFL, leading the league in total rushing yards in 2016 and 2018, and leading the league in yards per game from 2016-18. He also scored 68 running touchdowns in 105 career games for the Cowboys, including 15 as a rookie. He left his stamp in Dallas, and the Cowboys acknowledge that, even if they were eager to show him the door at the end of his run.
“He’s always going to be loved here,” coach Mike McCarthy said this week. “I think the love he has, still today, in the locker room is tremendous. I mean, he’s probably, in my time and in our time together, probably one of the most popular players. He’s a tremendous teammate, and still is. His name usually comes up once a week. So, great guy.”