The Dallas Cowboys drafted a goldmine when they selected running back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in 2016. In his rookie year, Elliott led the league with 322 rushing attempts and 1,631 rushing yards, while averaging a stout 5.1 yards per carry.
Now, the Cowboys have plans to increase Elliott’s overall touches in 2017. Are they looking to break him, or can the young 21 year-old running back handle even more action?
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants Elliott to become more involved in the passing game.
“He’s got great hands,” Jones said Wednesday from the team’s annual golf outing, per Jon Machota of SportsDay. “He’s really problematic for defenses in the passing game, and certainly would [like to see him get more touches].”
Despite Elliott’s heavy usage in rushing plays, he was targeted only 39 times through the air in 2016. He recorded 32 receptions for a total of 363 yards and one touchdown.
Elliott weighed in on the team’s offensive philosophy.
“We have a lot of weapons on offense,” Elliott said. “We got a lot of guys that can catch the football, so I don’t know if that’s exactly going to happen. But it may.”
If Elliott is involved in more passing plays, the increase in touches might come at the expense of slot receiver Cole Beasley. The 5-foot-8 slot man actually caught the highest percentage of targets among receivers last year.
Nonetheless, Jones is the boss and if he wants Elliott more involved, that is likely to happen. If so, Elliott would be prepped to assume a role similar to that of Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell. Last year, Johnson led all running backs with 80 catches in 2016 while Bell racked up 75.
Both of those backs are still going strong, plugging away piling up the yards and touches. For now, Elliott’s body should be able to handle the same wear and tear. But at some point a little down the road, pumping the brakes on Elliott’s overall touches might be prudent.
The Cowboys signed Elliott to a mind-blowing rookie deal when they guaranteed him 100 percent of his $24.7 million salary. Everyone involved wants to see Elliott perform up to expectations for this type of money.
We shudder to say that the last time a similar rookie deal like that was done it was when the Cleveland Browns signed running back Trent Richardson to a fully-guaranteed $20.5 million in 2012. Richardson turned into one of the biggest first-round draft busts of all time.
There is just a little food for thought to be had here.
Hopefully, the Cowboys make the wisest decisions possible when it comes to Elliott’s usage. He is a fantastic talent that fans want to see on the field for several years to come.