Ezekiel Elliott has been one of the best running backs in the National Football League since getting drafted at No. 4 overall. However, the former Ohio State Buckeyes star has been inconsistent in 2020.
The Dallas Cowboys running back has 132 attempts for 521 yards and five touchdowns this season. He’s averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry.
Is Elliott, who signed a big contract extension before last season, starting to show signs of slowing down? Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman was asked about that this week.
“I think it’s probably — it’s an interesting topic because what I find, and I think this has always been the case it seems, anyway, that when a team runs the ball well or a running back has a big day, the running back usually gets most of the credit. When the team is not running the ball well, then the offensive line gets most of the blame. It’s not dispersed evenly whereas at quarterback you get a lot of the credit and a lot of the blame. I think in some ways running backs are little more immune to the criticism when the running game is not working. It’s funny because I’ve got the 49ers this Thursday night, and just whether it was Mike Shanahan with the Broncos or Kyle Shanahan now with the 49ers, I don’t want to say that it doesn’t seem to matter, but they’ve not had high draft picks at running back and yet they run the ball exceptionally well. It’s been going on for 25 years, and San Francisco is doing it right now. They’re doing it with an undrafted rookie, who they’ve been able to still run the football with.
“And so, I heard you guys yesterday briefly in the car talking about whether you pay a guy that kind of money on the second contract, and I think a lot of teams would say no, especially in today’s game. I think they might have said no even back when I was playing or they would be hesitant to, and that was a different game as we know. Today’s game is obviously more of a passing league and we’ve seen so many teams with lesser players at that position still have success running the football. So it was a huge commitment and then you’re kind of holding on and hoping that he stays healthy, he can remain productive, but then when you get into games like this or seasons like this, when you’re not playing with a lead and you’re not able to continue to run the football. I was just looking at some numbers this morning. Dallas on first and second down, runs the ball the second-least amount in the NFL, which I find interesting. I know that there’s games when you get behind, but for the season, to be second on early downs, on running downs, when they have built to run the ball, and that was the commitment they made both in the offensive line and at running back, that surprised me a little bit. But yeah, I think that the wear and tear, he’s a physical runner. He runs as hard as anybody that I’ve ever seen, quite honestly, and I think he’s a great finisher and all that. But that begins to take a toll, and it starts to happen about this time.”
Elliott has mostly lived up to his No. 4 overall NFL Draft pick hype, but we’ve seen other star running backs fall off quickly.
It will be interesting to see what the rest of Elliott’s career looks like – either in Dallas or elsewhere.
The Cowboys are set to take on the Steelers this Sunday. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. E.T. on CBS.