Ezekiel Elliott has been clear in what his goals are for his rookie season. Despite being ever so close to breaking it, eclipsing Los Angeles Rams hall of famer Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record is not on that list.
Sure, at 11-1, we are all thinking Super Bowl first and everything else second. But with Zeke creeping ever so slightly towards the record each week, it is impossible not to think about.
Just how realistic is this goal for Elliott, though?
Through the Cowboys first 12 games, Zeke has rushed for a team rookie record 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns. Yeah, that is a lot of yards, but he still has a ton of ground to cover to reach Dickerson’s 1,808 mark. During the final quarter of the season, Zeke will need to average 131 yards rushing a game to surpass Dickerson.
Entering Thursday’s game with the Minnesota Vikings, Elliott had been averaging 109 yards per game, including a four game stretch where he eclipsed 130 yards each time. After a lackluster 86 yard (well, for him) performance against the Vikings last week, that average dropped considerably.
This week, Elliott takes on the only team which held him under 80 yards this season, the New York Giants. Elliott’s first game as a pro was a bit of a disappointing one, rushing for just 51 yards on 20 attempts. The Giants run defense is reeling, though, giving up their first 100 yard rusher of the season last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Logic and reason would say that Zeke’s chase of Dickerson will be a futile one. That there is virtually no way that he can reach the record, or even threaten to surpass it over the final quarter of the season.
Elliott does have a few things working for him in his chase of greatness, however.
Of the final four opponents, only the Giants rank in the top 10 in terms of rush yards against. After the tough bout with New York, Elliott will get to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions, who are 22nd and 15th respectively in rushing defense. Tampa is the worst of these final four, allowing 115.8 yards per game.
To close out the season, Elliott would face a Philadelphia Eagles team which he already gained 96 yards on week 8 of the season. The problem is, just 96 yards will not be enough, unless he finds a way to absolutely gash the Lions and Bucs during the two games prior.
The Cowboys success may also hurt Elliott’s quest. The odds are, their final game of the season in Philly won’t mean much in terms of seeding, making it highly unlikely Zeke will get his usual 18-25 carries.
Without those carries, it becomes almost impossible for Zeke to make up the ground he needs to pass Eric Dickerson.
Simply put, Ezekiel Elliott probably won’t break the rookie rushing record this season. Given the team’s success and upcoming schedule, the odds that Zeke can rush for 523 yards over 4 games is unlikely. With that said, considering how the Cowboys 2016 season has gone, I would not completely rule it out.