The Dallas Cowboys finished last season above .500, but missed the playoffs. This year, Ezekiel Elliott is focused and ready to lead the Cowboys again.
Elliott bursted onto to the scene during his rookie campaign. He lead the NFL with 1,631 yards, while averaging 108.7 yards per game. Elliot became the first rookie running back to lead the NFL in rushing since Edgerrin James in 1999.
He played an instrumental role in helping the Dallas Cowboys finish with a 13-3 record, the most wins since 2007. It was evident Elliot was motivated and focused solely on football.
That wasn’t the case in 2017. Elliott’s season was centered around distraction and uncertainty. He was originally suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the personal conduct policy. But, a federal judge granted a request for injunction by the NFLPA, which put the suspension on hold and made Elliott eligible to play.
The saga did not end there and Elliott’s suspension continued to get delayed, until November. Elliott’s last game was week eight before retuning week 15. Despite only playing in 10 games, he rushed for 983 yards and seven scores.
This offseason, things are much more similar to his rookie year and the Cowboys need that if they want to return to the postseason.
“He has a clear focus and clear vision on what he wants to do and what he wants to be,” running back coach Gary Brown said. “When you look at him physically and see where he has leaned up then you see the way he runs out here. You can tell he is in a different place right now.”
Dallas’ offense is much different this year compared to last season. Dak Prescott no longer has a reliable veteran tight-end to lean on and he does not have a clear number one receiver.
However, he does have Elliott and will depend on the third-year back.
We’ve seen franchise running backs like Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy explode during their third year. Both backs rushed for for over 1,300 yards, while Peterson scored a career high 18 touchdowns and McCoy scored 17.
Most recently, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon broke out in their third season. Gurley and Gordon both finished the year with career highs in rushing yards and touchdowns.
With reports indicating Elliott is in much better shape physically and mentally, it’s easy to expect him to breakout like Peterson, McCoy, Gurley and Gordon.
Elliott’s production on the field is critical to the Cowboys’ success. This season will provide him the opportunity to prove he’s one of the best backs in the league, but also show he’s a leader for the Dallas Cowboys.