RB Ezekiel Elliot bounced back strong for the Cowboys in Week 3
By: Adam Hulse
There was much concern about Ezekiel Elliot heading into the 2021 NFL season. He was coming off his worst year ever in 2020, setting new career lows in many different categories. His 979 rushing yards, four yards per carry, six rushing touchdowns, eight total touchdowns, and 6.5 yards per reception were all new career lows for Elliot. He did set one new career high last year, but unfortunately it was in a negative category, losing five total fumbles. That’s the same amount of turnovers that he had in the rest of his entire career combined.
It was a rough 2020 campaign for Elliot, but there were reasons why some of it could be somewhat understandable. With Dak Prescott being injured in week five and missing the rest of the season, defenses were stacking the box against the run without the threat of a real passing game. In addition, the Cowboys suffered a ton of injuries to their offensive line last year as well, including to their top two blockers in Tyron Smith and Zack Martin.
All of the injuries to key players in the Cowboys offense may have made Elliot feel extra pressure to perform last season. He may have been trying to to force things a bit too much, would could possibly explain the fumbles. Playing with a backup quarterback and loaded defensive box for the majority of the season can in a way explain why his production averages fell off. Regardless, it was clearly the worst season of his career by far and the concern about him no longer being the same dominant force that he used to be was justified, especially considering the short life span of running backs in the NFL.
Elliot entered the 2021 NFL season determined to prove that 2020 was a fluke and that he still has plenty left in the tank. Week one was an unimpressive performance, touching the ball 13 times and only producing 39 total yards against one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Bucs. He improved in week two against the LA Chargers, getting 18 touches for 97 yards and a touchdown. His big breakout was in week three against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football, producing 116 total yards and two touchdowns on 20 touches.
It was a much needed dominant performance by Elliot on a big stage. He helped the Cowboys demolish the Eagles in a premium game. This performance should provide him with a huge confidence boost moving forward. Additionally, the emergence of Tony Pollard should help keep Elliot more fresh. He can now receive a few less touches so he will have an opportunity for a quality over quantity situation. Pollard has been explosive as the second back in Dallas this year, turning his 35 touches into 248 total yards and a touchdown. His contributions will take some of the burden off of Elliot while keeping him at full strength.