Ezekiel Elliott is feeling healthy and has a newfound mindset heading into the 2022 season.
Elliott partially tore his PCL in Week 4 last season and the injury slowed him down for the remainder of the season.
Despite the hurt knee, Elliott still appeared in all 17 games and had the seventh-most rushing yards and was tied for sixth-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL. This didn’t go unnoticed by Elliott’s teammates. Guard Zack Martin had this to say about his running back:
“He’s a bulldog. He just goes. People don’t understand. He loves this team and gives everything of himself for this team. The last two years, that’s shown. Think back to 2020. Half of the offense is out and Zeke is still in there carrying the ball 20 times a game. There is a lot of love on this team for Zeke. We’re pumped to get him going in the right direction.”
When asked about the most disappointing part of last season, Elliott flashed that selflessness Martin talked about. Despite all the other obstacles he faced, Elliott ranked the playoff loss as the most difficult part of the 2021 season.
But Zeke isn’t dwelling on the past because he realizes that all NFL careers are fleeting, especially for running backs due to the constant contact associated with the role:
“We’ve got to take advantage of this time that we’re allowed to get this year and make the most of it.”
Elliott’s recovery progress
The former Ohio State Buckeye said he’s back to full health and was even clocked at 22 MPH when running during OTAs. Elliott said:
“It maybe took me a month or two to get to feeling 100-percent. I was hurt last year, but that’s football. After week one no one can be healthy.”
Elliott also noted that the knee injury impacted his offseason training regiment for the better:
“I knew I was tough, and that I could play through injuries. It was definitely tough, but it’s my job. You’ve got to alter and evolve as a pro. My training now focuses on what I need to get better at, what my deficiencies are, where I need to get stronger.”
Biggest season of Zeke’s career
When Elliott signed his six-year, $90 million extension in 2019, it made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. His contract has since been surpassed by Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, but Elliott remains in the spotlight by Big D fans and media.
Most of whom haven’t been happy with what Zeke has brought to the field, and it’s not without warrant. Elliott’s numbers have steadily declined since signing that massive deal in 2019.
That same season was Tony Pollard’s rookie year and he’s continued to provide excellent value as a fourth round draft pick. We haven’t seen Pollard get RB1 touches as he’s been a solid backup to Elliott, but when given the chance Pollard’s made the most of it.
Last season was his best, totaling 719 rushing yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry, tied for the second highest mark among running backs. Having a viable backup on a far less expensive contract has made Elliott’s seat even hotter.
But after this season, Pollard is an unrestricted free agent and Elliott would account for an $11.8 million cap hit if Dallas buys him out. It’s very possible the Cowboys sign one of the two, or buyout Elliott and let Pollard test the waters in free agency.
One thing that’s almost certain is that both backs won’t return in 2023. So Cowboys fans, be sure to enjoy the dominant 1-2 punch this season because the running back depth chart will surely be shaken up after this year.