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Offseason | 2024

McClay details reasons for Zeke return to Cowboys 


FRISCO, TexasWith Ezekiel Elliott back in a Dallas Cowboys’ uniform, the work has already begun to acclimate him to an offense that now has head coach Mike McCarthy calling the plays, but having already played under McCarthy in recent seasons, it should take no time at all — particularly given Elliott's familiarity with All-Pro quarterback Dak Prescott.

Loving what they saw from the former two-time NFL rushing champ in his lone season with the New England Patriots, the Cowboys' front office points at 2023 performance as a key driver in a deal for a reunion being struck, as well as the now-rebuilt offensive line in Dallas.

"Zeke is a winning, starting running back in the league," said vice president of player personnel Will McClay.

'Tis true, because while the Cowboys weren't able to get over the postseason hump in Elliott's first stretch in Dallas, they've won plenty of regular season games together en route to the former fourth-overall pick earning a list of individual accolades.

He may not be the 2016 version of himself, but that doesn't mean he can't still be valuable to what the Cowboys are trying to do this coming season, and particularly when factoring in the rebuilt offensive line.

"You turn on the tape and you saw him doing things like power gap scheme running, inside-outside zone, helping in pass protection — all those things to show that the ability is still there," McClay said of Elliott's 2023 film. "Adding it to this roster, it adds a guy that loves football, wants to win here, wants to be here, and adds to the roster from a leadership standpoint as well as his ability to play."

He'll re-enter a running backs room absent Tony Pollard, who is now with the Tennessee Titans, but still houses a familiar face in Rico Dowdle, his de facto complement; and Elliott will be tasked with helping the young stable of backs take their own individual steps forward in their careers.

It'll be a group approach in Dallas, with Elliott leading the charge.

"I think the running back position, in this day and age, is not that old school, one guy as the lead back and the others fill in," said McClay. "It's by committee. And what he adds to the group, we're excited about. As well as the other pieces [that we've added] to it."

Those other pieces include first-round pick Tyler Guyton and third-round pick Cooper Beebe, both being looked upon as likely Day 1 starters, along with seventh-round pick Nathan Thomas, adding three very capable players to a starved offensive line.

If all goes according to plan, Elliott may see a resurgence in Year 9, and that's what everyone in the building is banking on.

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