What Will The Run Game Be Like Under McCarthy?

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FRISCO, Texas – It was a statement so obvious, it didn't really register.

At his introductory press conference, Mike McCarthy was asked a question about Ezekiel Elliott and responded accordingly.

"I think first off with Zeke, he's going to get the football. Let's make no mistake about that," he said last Wednesday.

Not exactly a shocking thought. Elliott is one of the league's very best running backs, having just finished a 1,357-yard season with 12 touchdowns – his highest touchdown total since 2016.

He's averaging almost 300 carries per season, and his 5,405 career rushing yards lead the league during the four years he's been in the NFL. There's also the matter of his contract, which is worth $90 million in total and will pay him almost $7 million next season.

To take it one step further, McCarthy pointed out the impact Elliott makes on the continued development of Dak Prescott and the Dallas passing attack.

"I think you have to clearly understand when you say the offense is going to make a quarterback successful, the best play to make him successful is a great run game," he said.

Again, it's pretty elementary stuff. But it is interesting to think what the Cowboys' rushing attack could look like with McCarthy in charge.

In the final few years of his time in Green Bay, it seemed to take a back seat. The Packers didn't finish better than 17th in rushing offense during McCarthy's final three seasons as the head coach.

They drafted both Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones in the loaded running back class of 2017, but it didn't help them average more than 108 rushing yards per game in the last two years.

That's a far cry from what the Cowboys have gotten used to with Elliott and his vaunted offensive line. From the time he was drafted, the Cowboys have averaged as many as 150 rushing yards per game, and never fewer than 123 – and that was in 2018, when the offense dipped to its most pedestrian production in recent memory.

With Kellen Moore calling the offense in 2019, that production jumped up to fifth in the league, at 135 yards per game.

That's not to say McCarthy's Green Bay teams didn't enjoy rushing success. After drafting Eddie Lacy 61st overall in 2013, the Packers finished top 10 in the league with 133 yards per game. For a brief stint, Lacy was one of the bright young backs in the NFL, averaging 265 carries and 1,159 yards over the course of the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

There's precedent here. And given the resources McCarthy has on hand, it's not a stretch to think he'd take advantage of them.

"We clearly understand what we have here and how we could build off of that," he said.

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