2020 was a season of disappointment for the Dallas Cowboys. After drafting CeeDee Lamb with the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft, expectations skyrocketed for the Cowboys offense.
Among those expectations was the assumption that running back Ezekiel Elliott would benefit greatly from teams being forced to cover Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and, now, Lamb.
NFL.com contributing columnist Adam Schein singled out Elliott this week as one of nine players on the cusp of a “make-or-break” year. That may seem like an odd category for a man who led the league in rushing in two of his first three seasons, has missed only one game due to injury, had a record contract bestowed upon him just 19 months ago, and has never finished a season more than 21 yards away from 1,000.
Still, Elliott had career lows in rushing yards per game (65.3), yards per carry (4.0) and total touchdowns (eight). All after being paid as one of the top rushers in the league.
Many looked to Elliott to shoulder the load after the team lost quarterback Dak Prescott for the season in week five against the New York Giants.
Not only was that not the case, but Elliott went nine consecutive games without a 100-yard game and nine straight games without a rushing touchdown.
Elliott still has five years remaining on his contract, but Dallas does have a potential out in 2023 that would only leave $6.5 million in dead cap compared to the $16.5 million in dead cap that would acquire in cutting him beforehand.
His salary is already fully guaranteed for the seasona as of March 22, so it’s safe to assume Elliott will be here another two years at minimum.
Elliott will turn 26 years old in July. And then he’ll likely surpass Larry Johnson, Deuce McAllister, Duce Staley, and Arian Foster in career rushing attempts before October.
Time will tell if Elliott can continue his workhorse-like load for Dallas. But 1,413 NFL carries is a hard-fought career for many a notable running back.