It would be hard to criticize Ezekiel Elliott's professionalism this season. For the first 14 games of the year, he showed up, carried the ball, took a number of hits, and preached the same message every week: One game at a time.
Unfortunately, the production simply hasn't been there. He has recorded just one 100-yard game all season, and the Cowboys have rarely been able to control the tempo in any of their games this season.
The excuses are clear and valid: he's played with four different starting quarterbacks this season, his defense has forced the offense to play from behind early and often, and his offensive line has been decimated by injuries.
The only problem with those excuses are that they seemed a little less prohibitive to Tony Pollard when Elliott finally missed a game last Sunday to a calf injury. Elliott was a late scratch to the Cowboys' win over the 49ers, and in his absence, Pollard accounted for 132 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
Elliott says he hated being on the sideline, but felt the momentum the team was gaining. "It's not fun," Elliott said of not being able to play. "But when the team goes out there and plays the way they did it makes it a lot better."
The big splash that Pollard made is not lost on Elliott. "Tony is a great back," Elliott said. "He's special."
But his response to the talk that Pollard should be starting ahead of him is not something Elliott was willing to humor. "I don't really pay much attention to it," Elliott said. "[The people talking about that] aren't the people signing my checks. I think there's a reason they aren't the ones making those decisions."
He went on to say that he believed he and Pollard "have different strengths and different skill sets" that provide a good running attack.
As far as this week's potentially crucial game against the Eagles, Elliott said that he is "on track" to play, but that he'll be continuing a routine of warming up in practice to see how his calf feels. He believes the time off helped it heal.
"I felt better today than I have in the past three weeks," he said on Wednesday.
A win over Philadelphia and a Washington loss would validate the claims that Elliott has made every week that the Cowboys are still in the playoff hunt. He might not be worried (or at least, admit to being worried) about losing his starting job to his young backup, but there's no denying that he wants back on the field against the Eagles.
"It was killing me not being able to be out there."
The Cowboys will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in their last home game of the regular season on Sunday, Dec. 27 at 3:25 p.m. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
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