“I’m definitely excited to kinda start a new chapter so I can kinda redeem myself from last year,” Elliott told reporters Sunday, via USA Today. “Just excited to get back out there and put my best work on film.”
Twice the NFL’s rushing champ, Elliott churned out his worst film to date last season when he recorded personal-lows in ground yards (979), yards per carry (4.0), yards per game (65.3), and carries per game (16.3), afflicted by his own struggles and that of Dallas’ injury-ruined offense.
Regardless, this wasn’t the return Jerry Jones expected on his $90 million investment.
“When you look at everything, it’s unfair to put that real hammer on Zeke that he had a subpar year,” Jones said last week on 105.3 The Fan, via ESPN’s Ed Werder. “He had a subpar year all right, but it wasn’t necessarily because he was subpar as some might express.”
And Zeke took that personally, arriving at training camp in peak physical condition after dropping 10 pounds over the offseason. He’s playing lighter, cutting quicker. He’s running hard, more motivated. He’s impressing some, wowing others.
“He’s in much better shape this year than last year,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy remarked to team vice president Stephen Jones during an episode of Hard Knocks.
Buoyed by the return of franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, Elliott is likely to revert to prior form; Pro Football Network notes his “excellent” position to garner 325-plus touches and 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
“The chatter about Elliott’s demise is greatly exaggerated,” PFN’s Eric Moody wrote.
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Zeke Talks Martin’s Absence
A tough matchup against a Tampa Bay defensive front that most recently confounded the unconfoundable — Patrick Mahomes — got a little tougher for Elliott. Cowboys All-Pro right guard Zack Martin will miss the game due to COVID-19 protocols, thrusting third-year replacement Connor McGovern into the fray.
“You have to be ready for the inevitable,” Elliott said Sunday, per the official Cowboys website. “You just have to go be yourself. It’s going to be tough not having Zack out there. We still have a lot of good players on our offense – a lot of guys that can help out. We just have to go play with who we’ve got.”
Zeke added, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “You got to protect yourself. You got to wear your mask. You got to make sure you’re going through all the protocols. You got to make sure you’re not putting yourself in any vulnerable situations.”
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Cowboys Alter Elliott’s Deal
ESPN’s Field Yates first reported on Aug. 27 that Dallas restructured Elliott’s contact. The team converted $8.6 million of Elliott’s $9.6 million base salary into a signing bonus, creating $6.8 million in 2021 cap space.
In the long term, it’s more unlikely the Cowboys move on from Elliott, who’s entering year three of his six-year, $90 million pact. Zeke’s 2022 base salary ($12.4 million) previously became guaranteed, and this alteration does little but kicks the can further down the road — until 2023 or beyond.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL