Since entering the NFL in 2016, Ezekiel Elliott has had at least 1,000 rushing yards every year except for his suspension-shortened 2017 season. But 2020 is potentially a new reality for Zeke where he could miss 1,000 yards based on on-field performance over off-the-field issues. He only has two weeks left to clinch that seasonal milestone.
Elliott currently has 832 rushing yards in 13 games in 2020. He sat out of last week’s victory over the 49ers with a calf injury and now needs 168 yards in two weeks to clinch the 1,000-yard mark.
Asking Zeke to get 84 yards a game would have been small potatoes during the first three years of his career; he averaged over 100 as a rookie and in the mid-90s from 2017-2018. But his 2019 average for rushing yards was only 84.8, and that has plummeted to just 64 rushing yards per game this season.
So yes, hard as it is to believe, even a fully healthy Ezekiel Elliott could struggle to rush for that kind of yardage in these final two 2020 regular-season games.
Some of this has to do with Kellen Moore’s ascension to offensive coordinator in 2019 and a more pass-focused attack from the Scott Linehan days. But the regression in 2020 is much more about the decimation of Dallas’ offensive line due to injuries and losing Dak Prescott’s consistently potent passing threat.
Before Dak went down, Elliott had between 89-96 rushing yards in three of the Cowboys’ first five games. Since then, outside of one 100-yard outburst against the Minnesota Vikings, Zeke hasn’t had more than 77 yards in a single game.
It’s bad enough that the Cowboys’ offense has been struggling, but now Elliott is nursing this calf injury and hasn’t even been fully confirmed for Sunday’s game yet. He’s still “questionable” and, as we saw last week, could be a late scratch against the Eagles.
Philadelphia’s defense, 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game per Pro Football Reference, would be Zeke’s best chance to pick up some ground in the race for 1,000 yards. Dallas’ opponent in Week 17, the New York Giants, are currently 6th-best in run defense.
Obviously, there are bigger issues for the Dallas Cowboys right now than whether or not Ezekiel Elliott hits 1,000 rushing yards in 2020. But it’s something that could be talked about if Zeke’s career eventually merits Hall of Fame consideration; one of the historical benchmarks that running backs are judged by.
Hopefully, Elliott’s health allows him to play and be effective enough to give him a fighting chance at reaching 1,000 rushing yards this season.