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Elliott Identifies His Biggest Improvement


FRISCO, Texas – Ezekiel Elliott has already won an NFL rushing title. He's already made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team.

For the last two seasons, he's been the focal point on offense and an indirect aid to the Cowboys' defense.

As the Elliott enters Year 3, where can he improve most?

"Just developing more leadership skills," he said after the Cowboys' final minicamp practice. "That's really what I focused on coming into this year, becoming a better vocal leader with loss of Dez (Bryant) and Witt."

The Cowboys decided to part ways with Bryant in April, and three weeks later, Jason Witten retired after 15 seasons.

Suddenly, the receiver and tight end depth chart is younger and less experienced. Defenses might key on Elliott more than usual early in the season, testing the revamped passing game still led by quarterback Dak Prescott.

"Zeke's going to have to deal with some loaded boxes, and that's going to help our guys outside, and those guys are going to make a ton of plays," running backs coach Gary Brown said. "So, come in in the best shape of your life, be ready to get a lot of carries early, understand that it's going to be a situation where defenses are going to try to stop us."

Elliott said he and Prescott have discussed meeting up with their fellow offensive teammates and training together during these idle five weeks before camp. That unofficial work, away from the team facility, should help the offense continue to gel when practice starts up in late July.

Elliott's second year in Dallas was a difficult one. He ultimately served a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy but spent months contesting the ruling in court.

Those days are behind him, and he says he's made an effort to become more vocal in the locker room – something that's not exactly his nature.

"You've just got to work at it. It takes more than just going out there and working hard," he said. "You've got to encourage guys. You've got to bring them along with you. You've got to be hard on them. You've got to encourage them."

Said head coach Jason Garrett: "I think he's someone who's obviously been a very good player for us right from the get-go and I think like with all players as they come into the league I think the more they go, the more they understand what's required of them as players, and as people. I think they grow. Hopefully we've put a good structure around him that can help him continue to grow as both a football player and as a person off the field."

And if Elliott's workload increases this season, he's "all for it."

"A lot is asked from the running back of the Dallas Cowboys," he said. "A lot has been asked from me the last two seasons. I've had some great strides this offseason getting ready to carry that workload this season. But those receivers are also looking very good."