Motivated Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott locked in and in ‘best shape of his life’

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott won “the Good Guy Award” from the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association because of his consistency in making himself available to the media in 2020, despite the personal and collective woes the team’s 6-10 campaign.

Elliott was available every week, and after every loss, but so far in 2021 he has been a no show for interviews, however, that may have more to do with the two legal matters involving separate incidents with his dogs.

In May, Elliott was cited by police for three counts of animal-at-large after his dogs were running loose in Frisco and his Rottweiler was put on a mandatory 10-day quarantine hold after biting two people. The victims were taken to a hospital for evaluation with non-life threatening injuries.

He is also the subject of a lawsuit brought on by a pet resort employee in Prosper, who says Elliott’s Rottweiler bit him in March.

So Elliott has stayed away from the media during OTAs and mini camp, but those close to Elliott say that beneath the silence stokes a fire.

After enduring the worst season of his career in 2020 and suffering the ignominy of his place in the game as well his importance to the Cowboys being questioned, the two-time NFL rushing champ has let his actions speak for himself with a renewed focus that should have him heading in 2021 in the best shape of his career.

“I’m excited to have a full year with him again and having him healthy throughout the whole season,” said quarterback Dak Prescott. “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 [at least the] best shape he’s been in the NFL. That’s going to be special for us moving forward.”

It will have to be because Elliott finds himself at a crossroads in his career.

Not only did Elliott have the worst statistical season of his career in 2020, averaging 4.0 yards per carry and only 65.3 rushing yards per game, but he scored just six rushing touchdowns and had six fumbles with five lost.

The absence of Prescott for 11 games due to a fractured ankle certainly played a role in Elliott’s drop in production as did having to play behind an injury-ravaged offensive line.

But there’s also the matter of his explosiveness, or lack of it.

Has Elliott lost a step?

The issue of whether a star player is in decline is always a hot-button issue, but the stats would suggest he has.

In his first three seasons in the league, Elliott had 31 plays of 20 or more yards, including four in excess of 40 yards. But he’s only had four plays of 20-plus yards in 2019 and three in 2020. And his long play over those two seasons was only 27 yards.

So has he lost a step? Or has he just lost it?

There were calls — mostly from fans and the media — last season for the Cowboys to give backup Tony Pollard, who is quicker and faster, a larger role in the offense.

Pro Football Focus recently ranked Elliott, who is still just two years into a six-year, $90 million extension, as the 12th-best running back in the NFL.

Elliott hasn’t commented, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t heard the commentary.

He took a lot of it to heart and trained during the offseason like never before, posting videos on social media to show his methods and his progress.

He looked to be quicker, sleeker in OTAs and minicamp.

“Zeke looks great,” Prescott said. “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.”

Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said he was excited about the possibilities for Elliott while describing him as fast and crisp.

Even Pollard, who is expected to have an expanded role in 2021, couldn’t help but gush over Elliott’s focus and determination. The two trained together for much of the offseason.

“He’s definitely been locked in,” Pollard said. “I can tell he took the right step forward this offseason, getting his body right and being in shape.”

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy echoed similar sentiments. He said Elliott has been working out at the facility since the first day of the offseason, and he added that Elliott’s focus and motivation has mirrored that of the team.

“I think it’s like all of us,” McCarthy said. “We were 6-10 last year so regardless of how we got there, it happened. The motivation is very high in our building. I think you’ve seen it from everybody involved. It’s about winning, we understand that.”

The only question that matters now is whether Elliott’s offseason highlight videos will serve only a reminder of what once was or a prelude to what will be.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting