FRISCO - Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 979 yards with an average of 4.0 yards per carry with six touchdowns in the 15 games he played in the 2020 NFL season. Those career-worst numbers were most likely at least partially caused by injuries to Zeke and the starting offensive line, and possibly caused even more by the injury to Dak Prescott in Week 5.
Now comes the proclamation from Prescott - and from our own eyewitness accounts from media guys like Mike Fisher and Bryan Broaddus - about "elusiveness'' and "quickness'' in workouts - with the QB saying, "Zeke looks great. He's in the best shape of his life. Looking fast. Everybody's seen the clips of him working out independently with his running back coach. His cuts, just how explosive he is. Excited to have a full year with him again and getting him healthy throughout the whole season."
Great. Now what exactly does that mean to the Dallas offense?
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It cannot be overlooked that "as Zeke goes, go the Cowboys.'' Dallas has won the NFC East in the two seasons (2016 and 2018) in which Zeke led the league in rushing.
Yes, there is a chicken-or-the-egg factor there; Dallas' excellence fed Zeke ... and Zeke's excellence fed Dallas.
Part of the offshoot of Zeke's offseason might just be an overall confidence in the building about commitment.
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"I got my hands on 14 balls,'' Diggs says. "I ended up with 'not-14' interceptions. So that's a problem.''
"He's definitely been locked-in,'' said Tony Pollard, Ellliott's backfield backup. "I can tell he's taken the right step forward this off-season, getting his diet right and getting in shape. Me and him, you know, we worked out a lot of times during the offseason. So we're both locking in this offseason getting ready."
Prescott appears ready to move on from the forgettable 2020 Dallas Cowboys season, and the offense appears poised for a big return with a healthy offensive line and possibly one of the most talented wide receiver corps in the NFL.
Prescott said, "When Zeke's healthy and Zeke's doing his thing, he's the best running back in the league. It's just exciting to see him in the best shape of his life, or the best shape he's been in the NFL. That's going to be special for us moving forward."
That "thing'' doesn't have to be about rushing titles. It doesn't have to be about fantasy football numbers. And really, Ezekiel Elliott doesn't have to be "the best,'' as nice as that would be. When the Cowboys open the 2021 NFL regular season on September 9 on the road against the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, what Dallas needs out of Elliott is ball control, consistency and a late-game lead that would allow him to pad his numbers in a way that leads to victory.
That's what a "best-shape'' and "locked-in'' Zeke means to Dallas.