Ezekiel Elliott isn’t so bad after all.
Through four games, he leads the NFL in rushing with 412 yards. For two straight weeks he’s rushed for over 100 yards and scored a touchdown. He’s become more patient hitting his holes, and is not afraid to wait if a running lane isn’t there. He knows when to plant his foot and go north and south, and also knows when to cut it back.
It’s only been four games, but Elliott has flashed the explosiveness so many of us saw while he was at Ohio State. He is a nightmare for defenders when he gets to the second level – just ask the San Francisco 49ers.
Elliott took over the game in the second half on Sunday, and led the Cowboys on what would be their go-ahead touchdown drive. He was instrumental in keeping Dallas out of third and longs, something DeMarco Murray was so good at two years ago.
And the most exciting thing for Cowboys fans? He is not even close to reaching his potential.
Imagine what will happen when left tackle Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant return from injury. When Elliott has a full complement of weapons around him, he will be the best running back in the NFL. Behind arguably the best offensive line in football, defenses will be forced to stack the box if they want to have any shot at containing Elliott.
It’s almost crazy to think less than four weeks ago, some people were declaring him a bust on social media after Elliott only rushed for 51 yards and one touchdown against New York. The fact is, that isn’t even a bad game. Expectations are just higher for Elliott, and rightfully so.
It was a huge risk for Dallas to take him with the fourth overall pick of the draft, but Jerry Jones & Co. envisioned a workhorse similar to Emmitt Smith. Now, I’m not saying Elliott is the next Emmitt, but what I am saying is he has the tools to succeed. He’s stout, quick, agile, takes care of the football and has tremendous vision.
Elliott was also one of the best pass blocking running backs in the draft, which makes him even more valuable. His ability to pick up blitzes and keep pressure of Dak Prescott, and in a few weeks, Tony Romo, will pay dividends down the stretch. We all know Romo is not as durable as Prescott, so keeping him upright will be a priority.
With Elliott, the Cowboys get not only a balanced offensive attack, but a dynamic runner out of the backfield who takes pressure off quarterbacks. He’s a key reason Prescott has experienced success in his first four NFL games, and he will be vital in mixing things up when Romo returns.
But Dallas might not need to mix things up in order to win. They might just need to keep feeding Zeke.
For more on the Cowboys, check out Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.