FRISCO, Texas– This isn't the start anyone envisioned for Ezekiel Elliott – and the rookie running back recognizes that fact.
That's quite a statement in and of itself, considering the first two weeks of the season. Elliott was the Day 1 starter as a rookie, and he has 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns after two games.
When you're drafted No. 4 overall to play behind a talented offensive line, though, the expectations are a bit higher than 3.3 yards per carry and 67 yards per game – and Elliott is comfortable with that.
"I wouldn't say I'm a victim of high expectations – the expectations are going to be there," he said. "I got drafted in the top five at a position that hasn't been drafted that highly in the past couple years. The expectations are going to be high."
Elliott responded well to the struggles of Week 1 with a solid start last weekend against Washington. He reeled off 21 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown, and seemed to be well on his way to his first career 100-yard effort.
Then, the fumbles set in. He lost the first one, resulting in a Washington field goal in the third quarter. The second one came midway through the fourth quarter, nearly costing the Cowboys on a crucial scoring drive. Once Doug Free recovered it for Dallas, however, it was Alfred Morris who finished things off.
Asked if he could remember the last time he'd been benched, Elliott could only shake his head and laugh.
"Well, I've never been benched – so that's new to me," he said. "But you've just got to respond by going to work the next day. That's all you can do to put it all behind you. You look at the bright side, we went and got the win – that's what we went to Washington for, is to go get that win. We did that."
[embeddedad0]The Cowboys have repeated that Elliott's touches aren't in any jeopardy. It's a safe bet you'll see him in the starting role against Chicago, despite some suggestions at trying Morris' hand. Asked about it on Monday, though, Garrett felt confident his rookie would respond the right way to the setback.
"He made strides from Week 1 to Week 2," Garrett said. "He ran the ball hard. He ran the ball tough. He has handled the ball well through his career. He has strong hands. He does a good job with his ball security. He did that at Ohio State. He has done that for us up to this point."
As noted earlier, Elliott was on his way to a productive afternoon in Washington. Before the first fumble, he toted the rock for gains of nine, five, 21 and four. But it's an unavoidable fact that his performance to this point isn't in line with the Offensive Rookie of the Year projections that he's faced with.
It'd be understandable for that to bother Elliott, given how successful he's been through every step of his career. Asked about it on Wednesday, though, he repeated his phrase from the offseason that no one else will be harder on him than he is.
"It's what I expect honestly," he said. "It's what I expect, I'm criticizing myself every day when I come in and watch the film when I'm trying to get better. I mean, I won't say it's necessarily bothering me, but it's what I expect."