FRISCO, Texas – There's a bit of irony to the way things have started to click for Ezekiel Elliott.
You can't argue the guy is having success. After a slow start to his rookie season, Elliott finds himself leading the NFL in rushing after one month, coming off the strength of back-to-back 100-plus-yard games.
"I think it just came with the game reps – getting out there, having film and having something to watch," Elliott said. "Having something to critique and something to go to work on, week in and week out."
Whatever Elliott is doing is working. But it's interesting to note that the two best games of his season have come after the Cowboys' offensive line was beset by injuries. Tyron Smith has sat out of both of the last two games, in which Elliott has racked up 278 of his 412 total yards. The Cowboys also lost La'el Collins to injury at the halfway point of their Week 3 win.
It hasn't seemed to matter. And with the amount of talent stockpiled on that offensive line, Elliott said it doesn't.
"They're a group of grinders, they're a gritty group from the top to the bottom – you're a starter, you're a backup, those guys can play. They can ball," he said. "They just have a culture in that room that allows them to come in and play at a high level. It doesn't matter who's in there, they're going to go out there and do their job. They have a pride in the way they take the field and compete."
That's proven to be true to this point, as Chaz Green has played exceptionally in Smith's absence, while Ron Leary hasn't missed a beat in returning to the starting lineup. Collins was officially moved to injured reserve on Wednesday afternoon, but the Cowboys are optimistic both Smith and Green will be healthy enough to go this weekend against Cincinnati – restoring some of that depth up front.
Even if they aren't, you obviously won't hear excuses from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett – whose team has handled injuries remarkably better in 2016 than 2015.
"Your job is to be prepared to be ready. If your number is called you have to go in there because we're counting on you. That's what accountability is," he said. "And again, you're not going to be perfect. You're going to make mistakes. But if you approach it the right way every day, typically you give yourself the best chance to have some success."
True to Garrett's mantra, Elliott said he's just focused on doing his job well – regardless of who's in front of him. But there's no denying that things are starting to mesh, and the long-discussed patience is starting to pay off.
"We're starting to get real close, we're starting to definitely get that chemistry," he said. "We have a mutual respect in that we both go to work, and we've got to work together. That's how we're going to be the best."