Cowboys trying to stop forcing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott so much?
Ezekiel Elliott has had some games this season where he really seems to struggle running the ball on first down, and that could be one of the reasons the Dallas Cowboys are having more success through the air than on the ground. Following two straight rough performances from Elliott, the team may have plans to embrace that change.
Elliott rushed for just 47 yards on 20 carries in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago. He then had 45 yards on 15 totes in Sunday’s win over the Detroit Lions, while Dak Prescott threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Prescott had 397 yards the week before and leads the NFL with 3,221 passing yards on the season, so it’s not a stretch to say Elliott is no longer the focal point of the Dallas offense.
That appears to be the plan going forward, as well. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote this week that a source told him the Cowboys “learned from the Vikings loss when they stubbornly forced the ball to an ineffective Elliott late and shunned the passing game.” Game plans in the NFL are specific to each opponent, but what worked in the past with the running game may not be as effective this season.
The Cowboys have dealt with some injuries along their offensive line this year, and that has likely played a role in Elliott being inconsistent. The star running back also missed the entire offseason while holding out for a new contract, so that could be a factor as well. For what it’s worth, Jerry Jones denied this week that Dallas is going lessen Elliott’s role.
“Let me be real clear about something: Zeke is one of the best football players in the National Football League,” Jones said during his appearance on 105.3 The Fan. “It makes no sense not to be trying to get the ball to Zeke or try to get the plays in and around Zeke.”
Elliott’s 833 rushing yards are nothing to scoff at, but the Cowboys likely expected his typical dominance when they signed him to a $90 million extension. That’s no reason to force the issue, and some comments Jones made over the offseason indicated he may have seen this coming.