Posted on May 27, 2017, by Travis Pulver
There were a lot of expectations heaped upon Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot last season. After a nice career at Ohio State and with the Cowboys legendary line blocking for him, anything less than the rushing title would have been a disappointment. Some even thought he could make a run at Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record.
As fans know—he won the title and may have had a shot at Dickerson’s record had he played in the regular season finale. But it would have taken an epic performance (178 yards).
So, one record is out of reach forever, but there are plenty of other ones he will have a shot at during his career. Next season, and probably the next few years, many will talk about—well, not so much a record but a particular club, the 2,000-yard club.
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After running for 1631 yards as a rookie, is it possible that he could become the next running back to join the elusive 2,000-yard club? Only seven players in NFL history have ever done so. Eric Dickerson did so his sophomore season in the league as did Chris Johnson so it I not inconceivable that such a young player could accomplish such a monumental accomplishment.
There is a reason why so few players have accomplished the milestone. It requires running the ball an awful lot, taking a ton of damage, and not getting hurt. To carry the ball as often as would be necessary would have a player taking so much contact that the injury risk may not be worth it to a playoff caliber team.
But Elliot has that offensive line in Dallas. While they have lost a couple of members, La’el Collins is expected to make sure one of them is not missed. As for the other—that remains to be seen. But regardless of who it is, the Dallas line will still be one of the best in the business and one a 225-lb. running back can do some severe damage running behind.
Can he do enough to run for 2,000 yards, though? Using his average per carry last season (5.1 yards), it would take 393 carries for him to break the 2,000-yard mark. That’s 24-25 carries a game—that’s a lot of carries.
But he averaged 21-22 carries a game last year—so, it is not crazy to imagine him getting the ball 393 times next season, right? He’d only need 2-3 more a game. They gave DeMarco Murray the ball 392 times a couple years ago, so what’s to say they will not ride Elliot like they did Murray?
For one—he’s a young player they want around for years to come. The chances are good that the Cowboys would rather not run their new prize running back into the ground after just a couple of seasons.
Chances are good the Cowboys offense is going to feature Ezekiel Elliot early and often next season, but teams are going to expect that and plan accordingly. The Cowboys have to be aware of this, and while they will still want to force teams to try and stop the run, they are not going to rely solely on Elliot to win games.
If anything, it would not be surprising to see the offense try to get more out of Dak Prescott and the passing game. Doing so would take pressure off the running game and keep Elliot healthier longer.
So—can we expect to see him crash the 2,000-yard mark? Vegas says probably not. Bookmaker.eu has put the odds at 10/1 that he will (bet $100 and win $1000) and -3500 that he will not (bet $3500 to win $100).
The answer to that is easy—no. Dallas is going to work on proving they are more than Ezekiel Elliot next season. He’ll get plenty of carries, but there is no way they allow him to have over 390 carries during the regular season.
But will he get enough to win the rushing title? Absolutely. Dallas will pass more next season, but they will still be a run-first team. He’ll get his carries, and unless he has an epic slump or gets suspended for six or more games, he’ll lead the league in rushing—which will put him in a rather small club.
Only five players in NFL history have led the league in rushing their rookie and sophomore seasons (Bill Paschal, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, and Edgerrin James) in the league. So, when Elliot does it again next season, he will become No. 6.