Cowboys News App [Android]

Dallas Cowboys Running Back Group Heading for Strong 2021

The position for the has been one of the better position groups for the team for much of the last five years. Even as the has taken a hit in talent from the outstanding 2016 group, the Dallas Cowboys were still quite effective running the football.

Heading into his sixth year in the NFL, is entering something of a prove-it season. Even though his roster spot is solidified, many think he's experienced a drop-off in play in production. While there might be some truth to it, there's also context that's required as well.

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line in 2020 was nothing short of a disaster. After retired, they were forced to break in a rookie fifth-round pick at . played just two games, and missed the entire season. The Cowboys were also missing their starting for much of the season. The Dallas Cowboys struggled to keep teams honest after was lost to his ankle in week five.

Then there's the matter of . It's easy to forget because Elliott didn't miss any time. Elliott had COVID-19 during the Summer, and it certainly affected his ability to train and prepare for the . While he recovered, it's unknown what lingering effects the virus had on Elliott's body.

Ezekiel Elliott looks rejuvenated in workouts heading into 2021. With a healthier outlook along the offensive line and a full offseason to prepare. As they get everyone ready for the , has ranked each position in the league and has turned to ranking the position groups. In their positional , Ezekiel Elliott came in at 11th in the NFL.

As a unit, the Dallas Cowboys running back position ranked fifth per Pro Football Focus:

“Ezekiel Elliott‘s recent step-back has coincided with the deterioration along the Cowboys' offensive line. The product's 65.3 PFF grade in 2020 was the lowest of his career, but it is worth noting that it came behind an offensive line dealing with to its three best players. That should improve in 2021 for a running back with one of the lowest “stuff rates” — the percentage of runs for a loss or no gain — since entering the league in 2016 (7.1%).”

There's also reason to be excited about his backup, . Pollard has been one of the more efficient runners in the league on a per-carry basis, averaging over four yards after contact per rushing attempt and forcing 46 missed tackles on fewer than 200 carries in his NFL career. He just hasn't seen many opportunities behind Elliott.”

Ben Linsey, Pro

Ezekiel Elliott's ability to turn a play that looks like it's headed for a two to three-yard loss into a positive gain is one of the more remarkable traits he possesses. As mentioned by Linsey, he doesn't get “stuffed” often. Even in a down year for the Cowboys, Elliott was 11th in yards after contact per attempt among players with at least 190 carries. Zeke was also fifth in the NFL in first down rushes at 62.

Elliott's five carries for 15 or more yards were the fewest since the when he sat out six games due to a . Of the 19 players with at least 190 carries in 2020, Elliott was tied for last with per Pro Football Focus. For reference, Pollard also had five carries of more than 15 yards on 143 fewer carries last season. Look for that number to bounce back for Elliott into double-digits where it's been in 3 of his five seasons in the NFL.

Tony Pollard comes into 2021 after his best year in the league and should get more of an opportunity in the offense. Of course, Elliott will remain the lead back, but there were times last year where they tried to get Pollard more involved.

His balance, elusiveness, and speed are great compliments to Ezekiel Elliott's vision, power, and strength. Pollard showed in the game against the that he has a game-breaking ability that the Cowboys should get on the field more often. He has the speed and elusiveness to score from anywhere on the field; he needs more touches.

The Cowboys have evolved into more of a passing team under . They'll still run it a bunch, but Dak Prescott and the will take the lead in many games. That shouldn't minimize the importance and the impact of the on the Cowboys' success. The better the running game is, the better it can sell play-action. Teams will worry about the players on the outside, but if they have to worry about the running backs, too, it becomes a “pick your poison” proposition, and that's never a good spot for a to be in.

Like many aspects of the Dallas Cowboys' offense, the running back room is primed for a bounceback season in 2021. Ezekiel Elliott will return to the top of the rushing yard leaderboard and will continue to play a vital role in the Cowboys' offense as they attempt to return to the in 2021.

John Williams
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.

COntinue Reading


Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

> Join our team...

-- COWBOYS ANDROID APP --Free Dallas Cowboys News App for Android