Ezekiel Elliott had the worse season of his career in 2020. He posted career lows in rushing yards (979), yards per rush (4.0), and yards per game (65.3). Also, he tied a career-low with six rushing touchdowns and equaled a career-high with six fumbles.
Elliott has responded by indulging in a rigorous offseason training regimen, and he's looked a lot leaner and quicker on his feet. His best friend on the team, Dak Prescott, recently raved about the 2016 first-round pick and what he's seen from him so far.
“Zeke looks great,” Prescott said, via the Dallas Morning News. “He's in the best shape of his life. Looking fast. Everybody's seen the clips of him working out independently with his running back coach. His cuts, just how explosive he is. Excited to have a full year with him again and getting him healthy throughout the whole season.”
We Just Crafting Right Now!!!! @EzekielElliott #The3Way pic.twitter.com/XytUa3wwwr
Zeke really taking NO DAYS OFF this offseason 😈 @EzekielElliott (via @3hunnidGuru) pic.twitter.com/udwNRZaur1
The three-time Pro Bowl selection had a plethora of things that assisted in his only down season in the NFL. Prescott missed 11 games which allowed teams to focus more on Elliott with no real threat from the other three quarterbacks that took snaps last season. Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins missed 36 games combined and the Cowboys spent the entire 2020 season patching together offensive lines, which didn't allow much continuity to ensue among the unit as a whole.
The injury bug also hit Elliott last season. Although he only missed one game, Elliott dealt with a nagging calf bruise at the tail end of the year. Also, he battled COVID-19 last summer and no one can be sure what effects that may have had on his body.
Now that he's back to 100 percent, Prescott is ready to see Elliott regain his spot as the league's top runner.
“When Zeke's healthy and Zeke's doing his thing, he's the best running back in the league,” Prescott said. “It's just exciting to see him in the best shape of his life, or best shape he's been in the NFL. That's going to be special for us moving forward.”
Many have taken the opportunity to throw dirt on the grave of Elliott since the 2020 campaign ended. However, when looking back on his career, that isn't the smartest approach to take. Elliott led the NFL in rushing in 2016 and 2018 and was tops in the league in terms of yards per game (98.3) the season in between. 2019 might have been Elliott's most impressive season as he finished fourth in rushing (1,357), fourth in rushing touchdowns (12), second in all-purpose yards (1,777), and was tied for first in 100-yard games (7) all while playing with a near 5,000-yard quarterback and two 1,100-yard receivers.
Elliott hasn't been grinding by himself this offseason though. His backup, Tony Pollard, has been in the trenches with him as he looks to rejuvenate his career, and the former Memphis Tiger mentioned recently that Elliott has had a razor-sharp focus while preparing for the 2021 season.
“He's definitely been locked in,” said Pollard. “I can tell he's took the right step forward this offseason, getting his diet right and getting in shape. Me and him, you know, we worked out a lot of times during the offseason. So, we're both locked in this offseason getting ready.”
With Prescott and the offensive line healthy, a three-headed monster at wide receiver (Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb), and the return of Blake Jarwin at the tight end position, Elliott could have one of the best seasons of his career with opposing defenses having so much to focus on besides him. Not to mention, his motivation to prove he's still one of the NFL's elite running backs will fuel his fire to have a bounce-back season in 2021.
The health of Elliott and others around him will ultimately determine how effective he is this season. If all the stars aligned, the NFL may witness Elliott fix several plates at the buffet and eat defenses for dinner like he's been accustomed to in years past.