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How Ezekiel Elliott can Help the Cowboys Beyond the Field

Back in 2016, a sensational rookie was essential to the ' success in what could've easily been a depressing time. Five years later, Dallas needs to deliver more than just rushing yards if they want to make 2021 another memorable season.

After 's , there was rightful angst about how the rest of 2016 would unfold. Even though rookie QB had dazzled in preseason, trepidation about how that would translate to the real games was a valid and logical concern.

While he was fantastic in his own right, Prescott's success that year had a lot to do with the work Elliott put in as the league-leading rusher and one of the top rookie RBs of all time. But beyond just the yardage and touchdowns, Zeke brought a flare and fun to the that helped take pressure off the “backup” .

From his GIF-worthy hurdles over defenders to his signature “feed me” gesture, not to mention jumping into the Salvation Army kettle on , Elliott's star shone brighter that year than any other offensive player. That positive energy helped fuel an offense that had just lost its longtime veteran QB and had two other leaders, and , on the wrong side of their career peaks.

Romo, Dez, and Witten are all long gone now. This offense belongs solely to the next generation of talent and Dak Prescott has emerged as one of the most respected teammates and leaders in all of football. The Cowboys showed their faith in that with the massive contract given to Dak this .

But while Prescott's commanding presence can cover a lot of ground, Zeke can bring a different and almost equally important element with his game. If Elliott can get back to his early-career impact then the positive effects can also go beyond the box score.

Sure, Zeke doing his thing helps in many tangible ways. He can pull defenders closer to the box and open up more passing lanes, or help with ball dominance that keeps his defensive teammates fresher throughout a game. These are clear, easy-to-see benefits of an effective run game.

But when a player with Elliott's flare gets going it can have a strong mental and emotional benefit. Those athletic runs and strong stiff arms get his teammates fired up. His swagger when dominating a game carries over to others; some extra juice as they do dirty work in the trenches or attempt to make their own big plays.

More simply put, a player like Ezekiel Elliott makes the game fun. And between the grind of practices and the big fight on gameday, that extra jolt of enthusiasm can be potent.

2020 was far from fun for these Cowboys. And really, nothing in the last five years has been as enjoyable as watching Dallas overcome the loss of Romo and pull off that shocking 13-3 run in 2016.

Zeke was a huge part of that enjoyment, both in his own highlight plays and charisma but also how he helped the entire team to be better. That's why you've seen so many articles this offseason about Elliott and the need for his return to greatness.

He's still good; the stats bear that out. But if Ezekiel Elliott can get back to the player he was in those first few seasons then he can still have a superstar impact on this team. The stats will be easy to find, but the way he can motivate and lead in his own way can be just as meaningful as the quarterback.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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