FRISCO - Ezekiel Elliott, now entering his sixth year as the featured running back for the Dallas Cowboys, has always said the right things about his pursuit of the NFL rushing titles: It's about the team, not about the individual.
But in truth, for the Cowboys and for Zeke - who twice in his career. has captured that honor, once as a rookie back in 2016 and the other two seasons later - it's about both.
And one NFL analyst predicts it's about to happen again.
“With a healthy, properly compensated Dak Prescott back in the fold, Dallas is going to dominate offensively,'' writes Adam Schein, a contributing columnist for NFL.com. "I envision the Cowboys jumping out to a lot of leads, allowing a highly-motivated Zeke to play Emmitt Smith meets Mariano Rivera by closing games with chunks of yards.”
We're not sure what Dak's four-year, $160 million contract has to do with Zeke's bid for a third rushing title. But we get the "closer'' reference to the way Emmitt was once used to hold leads in Dallas, just as pitcher Rivera once did for baseball's New York Yankees.
We also get how Elliott, coming off the poorest statistical season of his five-year professional career. is prepared for a rebound. Elliott recorded a career-low 979 rushing yards in 2020 and also tied a career-high in fumbles with six. There were public calls for more touches for backup Tony Pollard, and at one point, when Zeke was briefly benched, the standout runner went public with his acceptance and understanding of the move.
We have seen it written that Schein's is a "bold'' one, when it fact it is actually quite logical. From what we know about Elliott's offseason, he seems, as he approaches age 26, to be working toward adding a level of elusiveness to his game, which is still top-notch in terms of being a power back. Meanwhile, the fact that Prescot was lost to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 of the 2020 season but is now back figures to buoy Zeke and the rest of this offense, emotionally and otherwise.
Oh, and the offensive line in Dallas, decimated by injuries all last year, figures to be fully healed in 2021 and featuring Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La'el Collins.
For Elliott to win another NFL rushing title, the Cowboys will have to get ahead and stay ahead in winning games. The two pursuits are intricately connected: If Elliott plays at a "rushing-champ'' level, Dallas can win a lot of games. If Dallas wins a lot of games, Elliott will be given ample late-game opportunities that lead to rushing-title contention.
This is far more logical than it is "bold.'' If the Dallas Cowboys engineer for themselves a resurgence, Ezekiel Elliott will likely be a driving force of it ... and will likely be a beneficiary of it. And the honors will surely follow.