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Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Primed for a Bounce-Back Season in 2021

There are several players on the Dallas Cowboys that need to rebound from a disappointing 2020 season. However, if one player needs to return to form, it’s Running Back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott came into 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19 during the summer. There’s no telling what kind of impact that had on his conditioning and performance throughout the season. Ezekiel Elliott should return to form with an offseason to get right, and the Cowboys could certainly use him.

What went down in 2020 wasn’t entirely Ezekiel Elliott not having a good season. From a statistical standpoint, it wasn’t his best. But there’s context to consider when looking at any individual performance from last season.

Elliott, just like running buddy Dak Prescott and the other quarterbacks, was impacted by the offensive line’s inconsistencies. No Tyron Smith or La’el Collins for nearly all of the season, and no continuity at center and left guard hurt Elliott’s ability to produce consistently last season.

He suffered career lows in rushing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, and runs of 15+ yards. His 22 runs of 10+ yards were the second-lowest of his career, as were the 2.82 yards after contact per attempt. Fumbles were a huge issue early in the season.

In the first six games of the year, Elliott had five fumbles. He returned to baseline the rest of the year, finishing with just one fumble in his final nine games of the year.

If there is an area to be encouraged by, Ezekiel Elliott’s elusive rating per Pro Football Focus was the second-highest of his career. This stat measures what the running back does with the football independent of the blocking in front of him. We know that the offensive line’s production was a fraction of what it’s been in the past and yet Elliott was still able to produce at times throughout the season.

Over the last couple of years, Elliott has attempted to change his body composition to become quicker, more agile, and more elusive. As the offensive line’s talent level has dropped off since his rookie season, Elliott has had to do more on his own. At times it hasn’t looked pretty, but there are times when the blocking hasn’t held up and Elliott’s able to manufacture a positive run.

Under Kellen Moore, the Cowboys have begun to emphasize a vertical passing game. That aggressive mentality has helped the Cowboys become one of the best passing teams in the NFL over the last couple of seasons. And at the same time, the Cowboys still are working to keep Ezekiel Elliott heavily involved in the offense. As the passing game continues to grow as a threat opposing defenses have to account for, it should make Elliott’s job a bit easier.

Elliott has been the guy that took the pressure off of the offense over the years, but after a couple of down years, teams might begin focusing on slowing the Cowboys’ plethora of pass catchers. With more attention directed to the outside, Elliott should find more running room.

Hopefully, a healthy Tyron Smith and La’el Collins along with a further developed Tyler Biadasz at center will lead to a jump in production for a reignited Ezekiel Elliott in 2021.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. I’m hoping Zeke contracting covid had something to do with him falling off a cliff this year. It would make sense and I hope that’s part of it. Means he could have a bounce back year, though i doubt he will ever be elite again.

  2. Gary b, don’t think it was covid, because I think he was dropping off before that. I would love to see him get back even 80, 90 percent of his old self, but it doesn’t look promising. I say draft a RB somewhere around the middle range, just for insurance in case EE goes even more south. Pollard is above average, and Rico is an unknown, and neither scare many folks. Don’t see either as a lead back.

  3. I think the problem with Zeke is that after his rookie campaign and the majority of his 2nd year, he came to the realization that if he was going to survive his usage rate, he was going to have to get bigger. It appears to have slowed him down … at his old weight he was able to bridle players now he tries to run them over. Get him back to his ideal weight, reduce his carries and increase Pollard’s. He’s not washed up yet.

  4. VAM…I;ve been a big fan of Zeke since tOSU. I hope he does bounce back…with a healthy offense! I’d like to see more Pollard, but not just because zeke raises his hand. I the wo can be a killer 1-2 punch provided an effective game plan, not just a breather spell here and there.

  5. He will be back to form Im sure of it for those that hate and speak on stuff they don’t know..just hold on tight you will be on the coaster ride again also stating that you knew but didn’t..he’s had a bad year and fake fans and haters are ready to down grade him and ripp him a new spread..last time I check the Cowboys are a team they failed together not just one guy writing the ship it’s a whole team that didn’t mount to anything

  6. My best friend and I (who is a fellow Cowboys fan) just made a friendly wager that Zeke will not rush for more than 1000 yards this year. I say that he will not because of several reasons:
    1). He will lose carries to Tony Pollard
    2) He will not be the main focus of the offense (pass oriented)
    3) The offensive line will not be the dominant run blocking line which we are accustomed to
    4). He does not hit the holes with speed like 2 years ago (think DeMarco Murray before he was traded)
    5). Last but not least, he’s overpaid

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