All eyes on Zeke

The Cowboys are depending on RB Ezekiel Elliott to power the offense the way he did in 2016.

By Chad Conine

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott put himself in elite company when he led the NFL in rushing in 2016. Elliott ran for 1,631 yards and 15 TDs as he became a Dallas fan favorite and fueled the Cowboys’ 13-win campaign that ended in the divisional round of the playoffs against Green Bay.

But the follow-up in 2017 was patchy at best. Elliott spent the first half of the season in limbo as he awaited the appeal process to play out in his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy. In the end, Elliot played in 10 games and rushed for 983 yards. His ability to positively impact the Cowboys’ offense as a whole and their win-loss record dropped off steeply as Dallas finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs.

So here comes year three. And, considering the Cowboys lost a pair of superstar offensive weapons as they cut ties with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten retired, their hopes of moving the football this season rest heavily on Elliott.

Here’s how Elliott’s breakout campaign in 2016 stacks up against some other rookie sensations, along with their respective career trajectories.

Player —> Rookie Year —> Year 2 —> Year 3

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys —> 1,631 —> 983 —> ???

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings —> 1,341 —> 1,760 —> 1,383

Edgerrin James, Indianapolis Colts —> 1,553 —> 1,709 —> 662 (6 games)

Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions —> 1,470 —> 1,304 —> 1,548

Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers —> 1,450 —> 1,697 —> 1,934

Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams —> 1,808 —> 2,105 —> 1,234

Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys —> 937 —> 1,563 —> 1,713