As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday in Hawaii, they continue to so without Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is still searching for a contract extension from the Dallas Cowboys that could potentially make him the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL. The Cowboys are trying to get Elliott’s contract closer to what Le’veon Bell received from the New York Jets at $13.125 million per year.
The difference is probably about $2 million a year between the two sides. That difference is leading to this holdout.
Despite being away from the team, Elliott is reportedly staying in excellent shape. Per a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL’s leading rusher from the 2016 and 2018 seasons has been working out while in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and should be ready to hit the ground running once the contract situation is figured out.
While he is away from the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott’s weight is in the low 220s, the lowest it has been since his rookie year, per source. If and when the two sides can work out a deal, Elliott will be all ready to go.
Schefter also states that Elliott is down to the low 220’s, which is approximately 10 pounds lighter than what he has been playing at the last couple of years.
One criticism of Ezekiel Elliott’s 2018 season is that he wasn’t very efficient with his league-leading carries. Per NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Elliott ranked 36th in efficiency. To Elliott’s defense, he saw eight or more men in the box on 24.67% of his carries last season (Per Next Gen Stats).
He didn’t have as many long runs as he had in previous seasons either. Though he still led the NFL in carries of greater than 10 yards (per Pro Football Focus), he was second in the NFL with only 11 carries of 20 or more yards and had only one carry for more than 40 yards (per NFL.com). In 2016, Elliott had 14 carries for more than 20 yards and 4 carries for more than 40 yards during his rookie season.
Elliott slimming down a bit should help him to be quicker, faster, and more elusive. For most of his career, he’s relied mostly on being more physical than would-be tacklers and has been at the top of the NFL in yards after contact. Slimming down should help Elliott to break tackles without having to rely on his physicality and toughness.
The other criticism Elliott faced was the effectiveness of his targets and his 77 receptions. While Ezekiel Elliott finished fifth in the NFL in receptions by a running back, he was eighth in yards and 14th in yards per reception among running backs with at least 61 targets on the season. If you include running backs with at least 24 targets on the season, Elliott drops all the way down to 24th in yards per reception in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
Much of that was due to his average depth of target, which had him more often than not as a check-down option. Elliott’s receiving ability is much better than that as we saw in the Detroit Lions game when Dak Prescott found Elliott deep down the sideline for a catch that set up the winning score.
With Kellen Moore on board, it looks like the Dallas Cowboys will deploy the running back as a receiver in the passing game more. In training camp, we’ve seen Tony Pollard and Jamize Olawale flash with receptions down the field in practice. Being able to motion Elliott out wide and throw to him down the field will be a huge boost to the Dallas Cowboys offense.
If Elliott is slimmed down to closer to 220, then his ability as a receiver will be the primary beneficiary. As opposed to being only a check down option for the Cowboys passing game, they’ll be able to deploy him on routes that have him catching the ball deeper down the field.
The Dallas Cowboys are getting ready to invest in Ezekiel Elliott with a big contract and it’s important that he and the team take care of that investment as he advances in age. While he’s capable of taking on 380 touches, it’s in the team’s interest to keep his touch total closer to 350 touches a season if they plan on having him around for the next five years or so, as it appears to be their intention.
Ezekiel Elliott has always been a tremendous worker and the reports coming out of Cabo should be encouraging to Cowboys fans. He’s getting ready for the 2019 season. Though the contract is what’s keeping him away at this point, I don’t imagine he or the team letting this spill over into the regular season. Ezekiel Elliott is an important person to this team; on the field and in the locker room. Having him in the backfield with Dak Prescott week one is important for the chemistry and camaraderie of the Dallas Cowboys.
The front office wants him to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys for a long time and Ezekiel Elliott wants to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys for a long time. When that’s the case, it’s only a matter of time before a contract will be finalized.
And when the contract extension finally gets done, the NFL’s best running back will be back and ready to help the Dallas Cowboys contend for a Super Bowl.