The Elliott Renaissance resumed with his 21 carries for 110 yards and a rushing TD against the Giants. He had 5 runs of 10-plus yards, including a 13-yard TD, and caught 2 of 3 targets, including 1 that went for a 4-yard TD. He returned to the field after knocking over a camera-bearing pylon caused an apparent back injury for the scoring play, on which he was so far open that he high-stepped into the end zone. With Elliott and RB Tony Pollard, the Cowboys have 200 rushing yards in 2 straight games for the 1st time in 19 games.
Zeke has moved up to 3rd in the NFL with 452 rushing yards. He might not be as effective in the 2 road games coming up in the next 3 weeks, but Elliott has returned to a must-start status until further notice. A U.S. District Court denied RT La’el Collins’ appeal for an injunction to end his suspension, so he will miss a 5th game when Dallas plays at New England on Sunday. His absence hasn’t really influenced an offense that has functioned well with backup RT Terence Steele starting.
Elliott had his longest run (47 yards) since 2016 and his 6th-highest yardage total (143 yards in 20 carries). Included was a 1-yard TD, running behind G Conner McGovern lined up as an FB. In a game when QB Dak Prescott threw just 22 passes, the only 1 directed toward an RB was an incomplete pass targeted for Elliott. A 245-yard rushing attack ran frequently behind RG Zack Martin, possibly Dallas’s most valuable offensive player.
Zeke has been rejuvenated in a potent rushing attack, part of an effective balanced offense. Sunday’s opponents, the Giants, won for the 1st time in Week 4. If they can keep this week competitive, the outcome could be decided by the running of Elliott and RB Tony Pollard. If it’s close and the Cowboys must pass, Pollard could take playing time away from Elliott. Going forward, if Zeke isn’t injured, you can consider him the must-start Elliott of the late teens.
We weren’t the only ones questioning whether Elliott’s time as the Cowboys’ bell cow in the running game was up. He and the Dallas coaching staff showed us that reports of Zeke’s demise were premature. Elliott took the lead role in a Cowboys running game that ran up 118 yards in the 1st half and coasted in the 2nd. Zeke finished with 17 carries for 95 yards and 2 TDs. He caught all 3 passes thrown to him and appeared to have a 3rd TD on a short pass that a replay showed he had come up short of the goal line. Elliott would easily have exceeded 100 yards if he had been needed in a 2nd half when #3 RB Corey Clement finished.
This week’s opponent, Carolina, has allowed an NFL-best 45 rushing yards per game and only 1 TD. It’s likely that the Cowboys again will intersperse Elliott’s carries with Pollard’s. If Dallas again can get an early lead, we could see the ‘Boys protect that advantage by keeping the ball on the ground to run out the clock.
In Week 1, Elliott had 11 carries for 33 yards. Against the Chargers, he was on a similar pace with 33 yards in his 1st 9 carries. He was more productive thereafter, with an additional 38 yards in 7 attempts with a long gain of 19 yards. He punched the ball into the end zone from the 6-yard line in the 1st quarter. Elliott caught both passes thrown his way for a meaningful 26 yards, much more production than his 6 receiving yards in the season opener. We don’t want to say Zeke is the old man of the offense at age 26, but the biggest threat to his playing time and fantasy value is losing playing time to dynamic, seemingly much younger 24-year-old Tony Pollard.
Pro Bowl RG Zack Martin returned Sunday from the Covid-19 list and made a huge difference for Elliott and Pollard with 142 of Dallas’s 198 rushing yards to the right. Expect that to continue whoever is running the ball. Also, don’t be surprised if Pollard continues to eat away at Zeke’s playing time.
Elliott had 11 carries for 33 yards, with a long gain of 13 yards. He failed to score from the 2-yard line and was a non-factor in the passing game, with 2 catches for 3 yards each. We couldn’t see it, but USA Today reported that QB Dak Prescott checked out of running plays on 12 occasions. The Bucs had the NFL’s best run defense in 2020. The Cowboys emphasized how well he picked up blitzes, but that’s not the skill that brought him a 6-year, $90-million contract extension in 2019.
Last year we wrote, “Wear and tear in years past have made Zeke an old 25-year-old.” We could find out Sunday if he’s an old 26-year-old. It seems likely that the Cowboys would have more than 14 RB carries against the Chargers. Last season, Elliott ran for 127 yards and 2 TDs against them. In addition, Pro Bowl RG Zack Martin will be returning from the Covid-19 list.