The 2020 season was one long struggle for the Dallas Cowboys that holds one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Injuries to Dak Prescott and half the offensive line contributed to the disappointing 6-10 record.
Another key part of the struggles: Ezekiel Elliott.
Since Elliott’s strong rookie season in 2016 (1631 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns), he has seen a decline in his production. He averaged about 108 rushing yards per game in 2016, but every year since has gone down to as low as 65 yards per game last year. He had a career-low 979 yards and six touchdowns in 2020. Not only that, but he led the NFL in fumbles with six.
Elliott’s struggles from last season might have been caused by the lack of preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but every fan has noticed the continuing decline of Elliott.
The good news is there are signs that Elliott could be well on his way to getting back to his old form from his rookie season.
1) Ezekiel Elliott’s Vow to Eliminate Fumbling
The number one focus for Elliott this offseason has been eliminating the fumbling issues.
While speaking to the media at training camp this week, he made it known that it was at the top of his list.
“I’ve never been a fumbler,” Elliott told the media. “When you carry the ball, you kind of carry the whole hope of the whole team, organization, and fan base. If you cough it up and give it to the other team, you’re letting everyone down, so I mean that’s the No. 1 thing that’s my focus this year is protecting the ball.”
Elliott mentioned that his wrist injury played a role in his struggles with holding on to the football. The hope is since he is back to being 100 percent healthy for the 2021 season that it should help.
In practice, he has been focused on getting as much repetition as possible, as well as a focus on keeping the ball tight to his body.
2) Elliott is at Peak Physical Shape
People have noticed that Elliott appears to be in better shape than he has been in the past. One of the issues he has had over the years is getting off to fast starts. In 2019, his holdout of training camp for a better contract led to him not being quite a football shape at the beginning of the year. He didn’t hit 100 yards in a game last season until November 22nd to win against the Minnesota Vikings.
Elliott told reporters that he is down in weight from 225 to 218. That will help make him quicker and make cuts easier when running with the football.
He has taken to social media to show how he has become leaner, more ripped with his body.
Getting into football shape right off the bat with preseason back can only help Elliott get off to a fast start.
3) Despite a Decline, Numbers Don’t Lie
As mentioned earlier, his average yards per game have gone down every year since his rookie season in 2016. One thing to mention is that he still has had three 1,000 yard rushing seasons in five seasons in the NFL, despite just 979 yards.
He’s also become a factor in the passing game that has been overlooked in recent years. After catching just 58 balls in his first two seasons, Elliott averages 61 catches per game in the last three seasons. Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore has made it a point to involve Elliott in the passing game, which has proven to be a positive for Prescott.
The hope is with a down season in 2020, Elliott will recover with a monster season on the ground.
He’s shown that he can do that in the past, so fans should get excited about the new and improved Zeke.
Featured Image: Jason Parkhurst/USA TODAY Sports