Depending on who you ask, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is either primed for a bounceback season in 2021 — perhaps even leading the league in rushing — or foregone to continue his descent down the proverbial NFL cliff.
Ask a few unnamed NFL talent evaluators, as ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler recently did, and the probability scales begin tilting toward the latter outcome.
“They want to get Zeke Elliott going,” Fowler said of the Cowboys on ESPN’s Get Up, via Bleacher Report. “He has regressed the last few years to the point where some league evaluators are wondering maybe he’s more of a second-tier guy, because only seven runs of 20-plus yards the last two seasons. Maybe he’ll regain his 2016 form this year.”
The sport’s richest runner, Elliott returns by default as Dallas’ resident workhorse following a bitterly disappointing 2020 campaign in which the three-time Pro Bowler fell short of 1,000 rushing yards, recorded his lowest yards per carry average (4.0) since turning pro, and matched his 2018 career-high of six fumbles across 244 attempts.
All of this, on top of his aforementioned lack of big-play production.
All of this, reason to believe Zeke will “disappoint” (again) this year.
“He failed to top the 1,000-yard mark for only the second time in his career—a first for a full campaign—and he averaged a career-low 4.0 yards per carry,” Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox recently wrote. “…The bad news is that Elliot has endured a lot of wear and tear as a pro. He has carried the ball 1,413 times in five seasons while catching 241 passes. He’s also led the league in rushing attempts twice. The reality is that Elliott’s 2020 performance—with and without Prescott—is likely an accurate indication of where he is in his career. Elliott can still be an above-average running back. However, above-average doesn’t quite justify the $13.7 million cap hit he’s scheduled to carry in 2021.”
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This offseason, everyone from Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to quarterback Dak Prescott to RB Tony Pollard has raved about Elliott’s excellent physical shape and conditioning. Add his personal trainer, Josh Hicks, to the list.
“Zeke’s in good shape,” Hicks recently told The Athletic’s Jon Machota. “I agree with Dak. I agree with Tony [Pollard]. I was on the outside looking in. They’ve been with this man three, four years. They see him way more than I see him. They’ve seen him work in practice, and they’ve seen him work in the offseason.
“I don’t think Zeke has ever worked like this in the offseason. I could be mistaken. But me, personally, when it comes to my drills and what I do and how I do it, I know he hasn’t worked like this.”
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