OXNARD, Calif. — Mark your calendars. As it turns out, Ezekiel Elliott will indeed take the field against the Dallas Cowboys for the first time in his record-setting NFL career — the former two-time All-Pro running back having agreed to terms with the New England Patriots for the 2023 season.
He's also opted to move on from wearing No. 21 and will instead revert to No. 15, his former number with the Buckeyes, a choice that gives a clear and distinct look into his current mindset and approach to what will be his eighth year in the NFL.
That puts Elliott on course to matchup against the Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 10 (Week 4), and it'll be on familiar ground for Dallas' former fourth-overall pick, because the Patriots will pack up and head to AT&T Stadium that weekend.
It was often made clear following the Cowboys' decision to release Elliott that the door would remain open until he signed with another club, per owner and general manager Jerry Jones, but the Patriots have now slammed it shut (at least for now).
As it stands, it will be Tony Pollard's throne in Dallas in 2023, on a franchise tag, while the depth chart gets fleshed out behind him this preseason.
Elliott, 28, joined the Cowboys as a top-5 draft pick in 2016 and went on to set franchise records as a rookie — surpassing both Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker in the process. He'd finish that season with an eye-opening 1,631 rushing yards and 1,994 yards from scrimmage (averaging 108.7 rushing yards per game).
His rookie campaign set the stage for a career with the Cowboys that included honors as a three-time All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing champ.
Elliott departed the Cowboys ranked third on their all-time rushing yards list with 8,262, behind only Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith — only five rushing touchdowns shy of surpassing Dorsett (72) for second-most in that category while playing in 54 fewer games, and in the currently pass-heavy culture of professional football, no less.
Also ranked as third-best in number of 100-yard games and fifth-most in scrimmage yards, his famous "feed me" gesture became a household item whenever Elliott made a play, but the Cowboys are packing what is arguably the best defense in the NFL in 2023 and, as such, makes for a great contest to come when the two meet in early October.
The addition of first-round pick Mazi Smith also looms large here, the added twist being Smith's roots with the Michigan Wolverines, while Elliott is a former superstar of the Ohio State Buckeyes; and while they obviously never met on the collegiate battlefield, it does add to the fun of the moment to come.
As does the fact that, for the most part, this is a defense Elliott has gone up against quite a bit in practices, some new faces (e.g., Mazi Smith, DeMarvion Overshown, Stephon Gilmore) notwithstanding.
Elliott's career with the Cowboys made him a legend in Dallas, but he'll have to try and go through them in October, in what will undoubtedly be a very emotional moment for all.
Elliott racked up 10,598 yards from scrimmage with 80 touchdowns.