Ezekiel Elliott is quietly having a productive season for the Dallas Cowboys. He currently ranks sixth in the NFL with 720 rushing yards on 4.5 yards per attempt, his highest average since 2018. However, the two-time rushing champion has been hobbled a bit lately.
Elliott has been dealing with a knee issue for the last several weeks. He's been able to grind out the last few games, but with the Cowboys having plenty to play for late in the season, he may get some rest soon. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the Cowboys will consider giving Elliott time to heal his knee and sit him against the New Orleans Saints in Week 13.
When asked last week if he would consider taking time off to let his knee heal, Elliott insisted that he could play through the issue.
“It's football,” Elliott said. “You get hurt. You aren't going to be 100 percent. I'm tough. Play through it.”
Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy was singing a different tune on Friday during his weekly press conference. He expressed some concern about the health of his top runner due to his physical style of play.
“It's that time of year. Zeke's running style is ferocious,” McCarthy said. “He gives a pounding, and he takes some hits. We need to evaluate that, and this week we'll see what the preparation looks like for him.”
Elliott got off to a good start in 2021. He averaged 86.8 yards in the first six games including back-to-back 100-yard performances against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. The last five games have been a struggle as his production has dipped significantly to 39.8 yards a game. His banged-up knee and not having Left Tackle Tyron Smith for three games certainly contributed to that.
If Elliott is to miss the Saints game then Tony Pollard will get the start. He's having a nice season with 531 yards (19th in the NFL) on 5.3 yards per attempt. He's not the in-between the tackles bruiser that Elliott is but his ability to make one cut and explode makes him a threat to score every time he touches the football.
The Cowboys will need Elliott down the stretch for their push to the playoffs. He can get a two-and-a-half-week break if he sits out against the Saints which would work wonders for his knee. A big picture approach with Elliott may be the smart route to take for the Cowboys.