Despite failing to notch a single 100-yard game in 2020. Despite an apparent inability to make plays in space. Despite having 90 million reasons to perform at an elite level.
“I think you’re selling him short. Early, when we were full-blown on offense, he was making some things happen. Those turnovers (at the beginning of the season) put a lot of focus on what he was doing. Still, I know the impact he has on opposing defenses,” Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan’s K&C Masterpiece. “I know what I see him do, relative to the things he brings to football. His physicalness, his enthusiasm … he’s our best football player, he’s our best one. Having said that, we just got to have more chances to expose him to the defense, and we’re going to do that.”
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Jerry Defends Zeke Amid Speculation
Jones acquiesced to Elliott following a protracted summer holdout in 2019, committing $50 million guaranteed ($28 million fully guaranteed at signing) to the three-time Pro Bowler. Zeke responded in kind with a 301-carry, 1,357-yard, 12-touchdown season. The yards were the fourth-most in the NFL, while his TDs tied for fifth. He busted four rushes of at least 20 yards and 25.91% of his attempts went for first downs. Elliott averaged a respectable 4.5 yards per tote and cut his fumbles in half (3) from 2018.
Inarguably, Prescott’s season-ending injury and the injury-wracked offensive line’s continual reshuffling have contributed to Elliott’s 2020 struggles. But the tape doesn’t lie, either. Through nine games for the 2-7 Cowboys, he’s converted 150 attempts into 572 yards (3.8 YPC) and five TDs. His longest run thus far went for 24 yards. The biggest blight, though, has been Elliott’s fumbling issues; five altogether, four lost.
Things came to a head in Dallas’ Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh, when backup RB Tony Pollard led the club with 57 yards on nine carries. Elliott, meanwhile, needed 18 totes to achieve 51 yards, reduced to an unflashy plodder. Pollard, a 2019 fourth-round draft pick, is averaging a healthy 4.4 YPC, 31.91% first-down carry rate, and hasn’t coughed up the ball. All on a paltry 152 offensive snaps, leading to calls for his increased usage.
Jones, however, was insistent the Cowboys will not reduce, demote, or otherwise “diminish” Elliott’s standing as the resident workhorse.
“Tony’s not a Johnny come lately to our appreciation for what he can bring to us. It always was exponential his potential here to help us, not though, let me emphasize, not though, at the diminished times we get the ball in the hands of Zeke or get Zeke involved in the offense in a way that he influences the offense so we can make big plays,” he said last week on 105.3 The Fan. “All of this is all around what we’re trying to do with our key spot at quarterback. I would say no in answer to any role that Pollard is being considered that would diminish anything that we’re doing with Zeke.”
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Dallas Radio Personality Predicts Elliott’s Release
This time next year, Elliott will be playing his final games for the Cowboys. At least, that’s what 105.3 The Fan’s Mike Bacsik foresees: The club cutting bait following the 2021 season.
Bacsik took to the airwaves last week to predict Elliott’s eventual ouster in a salary cap-driven move by a front office that, he argues, mistakenly invested in a devalued NFL position — and an “average running back.”
“I think when we get to the end of the 2021 season, the Cowboys will look to release Ezekiel Elliott. … I think they’re going to look at their financial aspect because I think they are committed to Dak [Prescott] being the quarterback of the future. And I think they’re going to just look at financially and look at his production and go, ‘Guys, it might be best to take a hit now and open up money for later.’
“I think we’re going to start hearing whispers out of Frisco that there’s a possibility that the Cowboys are going to release Elliott after the 2021 season. And it will be a financial hit. But I think they’re looking at it going, ‘We can’t keep paying this every year to a guy who is at best an average running back.’”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL