With the start of free agency last week, the Cowboys have had their share of players already come and go.
However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Today, we’ll continue the series with running back Ezekiel Elliott.
What’s Been Good: Just about everything – especially in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott didn’t get any votes for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, but it’s hard to think many players had a better “comeback” in their careers than Zeke, who bounced back from a six-game suspension that plagued his 2017 season, to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in his three-year career. Elliott was not only a workhorse for the Cowboys on the ground, but his 77 receptions also led the Cowboys.
What’s Been Bad: It’s not so much about what has been bad, but what could be bad down the road. The amount of touches Zeke got last year – 381 – led all NFL players and was the seventh-highest total in franchise history and the most since DeMarco Murray had 449 touches in 2014. Again, the production is there but the fear of Zeke having too much of the workload is certainly a factor. It’ll probably be addressed in the draft as the Cowboys should make a focus on taking a backup tailback.
2018 Highlight: When you lead the NFL in rushing, there are several highlights throughout the season. But the Nov. 11 game at Philadelphia was definitely a turning point for the Cowboys, who had lost two straight games and needed a win over the defending champs in the worst way. Zeke came through for the Cowboys, rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown, while catching six passes for 38 yards and another TD. His best highlight was even a score but when he jumped straight over an Eagles defender in the middle of the field.
What’s Next: The big news for Zeke centers on a contract that is looming within the next two seasons. The Cowboys now have the ability to re-sign Zeke to a long-term deal now that he has played three seasons. The Cowboys don’t have to do anything with Elliott right now but considering the position he plays, it would make sense to get a new contract in his hands sooner than later. That is the approach the Rams took with Todd Gurley, although he suffered through injuries in the second half of the season, complicating that example for the Cowboys. Either way, Zeke will be back for the Cowboys in 2019 looking to win his third rushing title in a four-year span.
The Cowboys have one of the NFL’s most dynamic players in Ezekiel Elliott, who not only led the league in rushing, but in overall touches. Heading into 2019, should the Cowboys look to lessen Zeke’s workload?
Bryan’s Bottom Line: To say that 2017 wasn’t a rough season for Ezekiel Elliott would be a vast understatement. The one thing that Elliott loves to do is play football and for six games that was taken away from him. In 2018 Elliott was able to put all that behind him and just concentrate on doing what he does best and that’s playing in the games. What is so impressive about Elliott is throughout his football career whether that’s been college or professional he has always welcomed the opportunity to be the center piece of the offense. There is an old saying in scouting. Don’t tell the mule how heavy the wagon is – just keep loading it. Elliott doesn’t want to hear how heavy it is he just wants you to keep loading it. As much as Elliott wants that responsibility you could tell that the wear and tear of the season was affecting the way he played. By the time the club had reached the playoffs he was dealing with more than just everyday soreness. As fans as we want to see them continue feeding him the ball, the more were need to be mindful of what he goes through each week when it comes to playing these games. I fully expect that we will see this front office make a move in the draft in order to help Elliott’s situation in games. As much as he might disapprove taking that workload off him now gives the club the best chance for long term success.