Things haven't always gone smoothly for the Dallas Cowboys' number four overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. But they have been productive. Ezekiel Elliott has two rushing titles to his resume (2016 and 2018). He ran for another 1,300 yards in 2019, finishing fourth in the NFL.
He's been one of the most productive running backs in the game since coming out of college. In the 2017 season, when he was suspended for six games, Elliott nearly rushed for a thousand yards. It's likely he would have contended for a rushing title that season.
2020 was the first time that Elliott played at least 15 games and not rush for 1,000 yards. But that's an indictment of the offensive line that played six different players at tackle, two different centers, and three different guards, throughout the season.
Prior to Dak Prescott's injury, Elliott had rushed for 364 yards on 89 carries. He was on pace for 1,165 yards rushing for the season.
Despite the revolving door along the offensive line and at quarterback, Elliott still somehow managed four yards per carry on the season.
Elliott has always found a way to make something out of nothing and even though 2020 was disappointing for the entire offense, the Cowboys star running back continues to be productive. Pro Football Network is working through their top 100 players as we get ready for the 2021 season. Ezekiel Elliott comes in at number 88.
Ezekiel Elliott has always shown an innate ability to do something with nothing. His vision and patience allow him to make positive gains even when it looks like he's going to be stopped for a two or three-yard loss.
If there's an area where Elliott has struggled it's protecting the football. Ezekiel Elliott has averaged 4.2 fumbles lost per season in his career. In two of the last three seasons, he's lost six fumbles. The Cowboys can't have Elliott coughing it up and giving extra possessions to the opposing team. Not with this defense.
This offseason Elliott's worked to improve his agility and quickness with the hopes of returning to the top of the rushing standings. If Elliott is able to improve that aspect of his game to go with his great vision and power, it should result in more big plays this season.
As the Dallas Cowboys have evolved offensively and brought more of a vertical passing attack to the offense, the hope is to get leads on teams and allow Elliott to grind out the clock. Because of turnovers and a porous defense in 2020, that never came to fruition. But hopefully with better injury luck in 2020 and an improved defense, Elliott will get the opportunity to play in more neutral or leading situations this season.
For the Dallas Cowboys, getting Ezekiel Elliott back to leading the league in rushing will mean they're playing with a lot of leads. Elliott running with a lead will lead to a lot of wins. Despite some questions on the defensive side, the Cowboys come into 2021 with winning expectations and Ezekiel Elliott will be a big part of meeting those expectations.