ARLINGTON - "Should NFL teams pay big money to running backs?'' is a good philosophical football question ... but as it relates to Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys, it's a question for another day.
The question for this day is: "What is the hell is wrong with Zeke?''
“I started the game out with two fumbles, gave the ball away and I gave them all the momentum that they needed to go and take off,” Elliott said following Monday's night's humbling 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. “So, I mean, I want to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ This one’s on me. And I need to be better for this team.”
Elliott, the two-time NFL rushing champion, has never in his life been a fumbler ... until this year. He fumbled only three times in all of 2019, but after Monday's pair of cough-ups - on back-to-back possessions late in the first quarter - he's now recorded five fumbles in five games.
Opponents can smell the hesitation. Arizona did, tackling the ball when it tackled Elliott, and then turning the two turnovers into a quick 14-0 lead.
The best explanation at the moment? Ezekiel Elliott has the yips. He is the golfer who can't putt, the pitcher who can't lob strikes, the All-Pro running back so shaky that following the miscues found himself benched, however temporarily, in favor of backup Tony Pollard.
Ironically, Elliott said that he's spend much more practice time than ever before on ball security. Curiously, coach Mike McCarthy said the same, and then - in a sort of humblebrag - pondered out loud about the possibility that this first-year-in-Dallas coaching staff might've "over-coached'' its players on the subject of turnovers.
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In the end, though, turnovers cannot really be "coached.'' There are only simple fundamentals that Elliott likely mastered in middle school. And in lock-step with the rest of this 2-4 football team, at this moment, "simple fundamentals'' stand out as a weakness.
Worth noting: Maybe it's not just this year ...
“Zeke is our bell cow, and we need to get it right,” McCarthy said. “He’s part of the plan. He’s going to be part of our success. So, we have to get it right. We have to take care of the football. That’s for everybody that touches the football on our team.”
It's for "everybody.'' But Elliott is highly-aware that his stature, talent and paycheck - in the wake of buddy Dak Prescott's season-ending injury - put him in the Cowboys' spotlight - and at the center of every opponent's bull's-eye.
“Honestly, I don’t think it is much of what they did,” Elliott said. “I think it was me. I am supposed to be a guy this team can rely on. Supposed to be a guy this team can lean on when times get rough. And I just wasn’t that today. ... I killed our momentum. Two fumbles, I can’t do that. I can’t.”
But he did. Ezekiel Elliott is right now less in need of a position coach than he is in need of a psychologist. He's a good player on a bad team and ... he's got the yips.