After a gnarled season by Ezekiel Elliott, are we looking at signs of a decline as running back, or is it just a tough year? In this piece, we will be discussing what should be the expectations for Zeke in this 2022-23 season.
This last offseason we saw Zeke going full force in his training all over social media with personal trainer Josh Hicks. Hicks has trained other NFL running backs such as Tampa Bay’s Leonard Fournette, free agent Melvin Gordon, and others. We got a short snippet of his offseason workouts via social media. You could notice the emphasis they took on working on his lateral movements, the way he held the ball, and more. The most noticeable observation was a leaner Zeke from the year before.
Zeke In 2021-22, What Happened?
Having said that, the expectations were high, with hopes of a return to 2018 Ezekiel Elliott who ran for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns. In the first weeks of the 2021-22 season, Zeke was on a good path to getting back to what he was in 2018. In the fourth & fifth weeks, he averaged over 100 yards but had a noticeable decrease in production after week six. After the New York Giants game, Zeke didn’t see the end zone until week ten against the Atlanta Falcons with two touchdowns.
Throughout the season, fans and media were told that he was dealing with lingering knee and ankle injuries. It wasn’t until the conclusion of the Wildcard game against the San Francisco 49ers, that Zeke had been playing with a partially torn PCL. A lingering injury which happened in week four of the season against the Giants.
The Expectations For Ezekiel Elliott In 2022-23
This upcoming season the expectation for Elliott is to stay healthy, but that’s easier said than done. His physical run style can take a toll on the body. Plus Zeke is going to be 27 in August, which is the age running backs tend to peak or decline. However, this might not be the case for Elliott.
Just his role may need to be altered, from the bell cow running back to an elite one-two punch tandem with fellow teammate Tony Pollard. Pollard is more of a scatback who relies more on his speed, quickness, and versatility as a receiver. The Cowboys were winning games, except when they fray from that. Giving the injured Zeke the majority of the carries is when the Cowboys tended to struggle in the running game. The only way to preserve Zeke in this part of his career is to split the carries between him and Pollard.
In closing, the expectation for Zeke is quite high due to his six-year extension in 2019 worth $90 million with $50 million guaranteed. Zeke has to produce this year at a consistent level and the only way that can happen is by splitting those carries with Pollard. Elliott also brings value as an excellent pass blocker and as a decent receiver as well.
Those assets may extend his time in Dallas for a bit, but he must produce at a consistent level. Only time will tell from now until the beginning of the 2022-23 NFL season. As good as Ezekiel Elliott has been, now he has to prove he is still elite.
Will Ezekiel Elliott return to his productive self or decline? Comment below and join the discussion!
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