FRISCO, Texas – With the Cowboys in the midst of a two-game losing streak, observers have pointed to running back Ezekiel Elliott’s workload as a possible point of emphasis.
Through five games, the NFL’s reigning rushing champ ranks eighth in the league with 386 yards and 4 touchdowns. But his 85 carries are the lowest total he’s had at this point of a season (93 in 2018; 105 in 2017; 109 in 2016). He has only topped 20 carries once: Week 2 at Washington (23).
It’s not something Elliott is focused on this week as the team begins preparations for the New York Jets.
“I think it’s just kind of how the season has unfolded,” he said Wednesday. “We’re still the same offense. At the start of the season they were kind of easing me in and then we got ahead in a couple games and we didn’t play that much.
“I’m not really concerned about the touches. I’m just concerned about us figuring out how to get things right on offense.”
The Cowboys kept Elliott on something of a pitch count (37 snaps, 13 carries) in Week 1 against the Giants after the Pro Bowl rusher missed the entire preseason over a contract holdout. (He signed a six-year, $90 million extension days before the season opener.) The Cowboys also held big second-half leads in each of their first three wins, giving them a chance to spell Elliott with rookie Tony Pollard. The team would like to keep Elliott fresher over the course of a long season where possible.
And in last Sunday’s 34-24 loss to the Packers, the Cowboys fell behind 17-0 after Elliott and Pollard ran 11 times for a combined 63 yards. The score prevented the offense from achieving its preferred balance.
Elliott says “there’s no panic” after two straight losses. The offense’s focus is cleaning up self-inflicted mistakes: five turnovers, sacks and penalties that have ended promising drives.
“Just a lot of basic, small things,” Elliott said. “The biggest thing is we’re moving the ball. We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot doing a lot of dumb penalties, things we can’t have, killing our momentum. If we eliminate those things, we’re a well-oiled machine.
“We just have to get our edge back. We’ve got to go out there and play like us. We’ve got to go out there and play fast, we’ve got to run, we’ve got to play physical football, we’ve got to hit those guys and just get back to our identity.”