Ezekiel Elliott will not go quietly into the night.
“Oh no, I’m not shutting it down,” Elliott told reporters after the game, via Pro Football Talk. “We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll see if I can get out there next week.”
Elliott was deemed a last-minute scratch due to his nagging calf, an issue that first popped up on Dec. 9 after he was listed as a limited practice participant. He gutted through it in Dallas’ Week 14 win against Cincinnati, converting 12 carries into 48 scoreless yards, but his burst was very obviously sapped.
Elliott remained limited in practice last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. He was officially listed as questionable, though the Dallas Morning News reported he’d suit up. As did Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.
But it became apparent he couldn’t.
“Honestly, I hadn’t been feeling the best all week, but on game days I’ve been able to go normally,” Elliott said, via PFT. “At first, I was feeling good. But yesterday I felt a tug. And that’s something I can’t really play with. I can play with pain and soreness, but with a tug, I can’t be as explosive as I need to be.”
Depending on his availability for Weeks 16-17, Elliott could finish the 2020 campaign with a new career-low in rushing yards and touchdowns. He’s recorded 211 totes for 832 yards and five scores across 13 games, likely spoiling another Pro Bowl bid, as well.
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McCarthy Gives Cryptic Explanation for Deactivating Zeke
Elliott’s calf ailment might have been the excuse the Cowboys needed to not play him rather than the reason he was unable to play. Speaking after Sunday’s victory, head coach Mike McCarthy revealed that Elliott was a last-minute deactivation because “we felt like it was not in the best interest to go with him.”
Given a full workload with Elliott looking on, sophomore RB Tony Pollard single-handily beat the 49ers, totaling 69 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 12 carries — a breath-of-fresh-air 5.8 YPC. He added six catches on a team-high nine targets for 63 yards.
Pollard’s highlight-reel play came late in the fourth quarter, with Dallas clinging to a 27-24 lead. Pollard cut, juked, broke out of a tackle, and hit the turbo button en route to a 40-yard TD scamper, cementing the club’s fifth victory. McCarthy rightfully termed his performance “excellent.”
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Cowboys Predicted to Trade Elliott in 2021
Projecting the biggest trades to come in 2021, Bleacher Report columnist Chris Roling recently urged the Cowboys to send 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