Ezekiel Elliott entered the 2021 NFL season averaging 19.9 runs per game over his five-year NFL career. He’s twice led the league in total rushing attempts and rushing yards, and in each of his first three seasons, he’s led the league in rushing yards per game.
That said, Elliott’s two-week stats in 2021 raised eyebrows. The Cowboys star averages just 13.5 races per game and he gave up snaps to teammate Tony Pollard.
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With Elliott entering the first season of a six-year, $ 90 million extension he signed with the Cowboys in 2019, the timing of his decrease in contact is under scrutiny. However, Elliott scoffed at criticism of his use by Dallas in two games.
“You hear it, but what really matters is what’s going on in this building. They’re not the ones signing the checks, they’re not the ones sending the telegrams, so I don’t think that. matter, ”Elliott said with a laugh Thursday, per Cowboys.com.
Elliott is right, but why did his keys drop so sharply? And is there a way for Pollard to overtake him in a bigger role? Here’s everything you need to know about the Cowboys backfield over the two-week 2021 NFL season.
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Why Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are going their separate ways
Elliott and Pollard sharing touches and playing time are all part of the Cowboys backfield plan, as Elliott explained. The team want to keep both players “fresh”, and Elliott doesn’t seem to mind the little extra rest.
“We feed on each other. We keep ourselves cool,” Elliott said, according to Cowboys.com. “We want to see the best of each other. We do everything we can to push each other, to challenge each other, to improve each other, maybe if there’s something I can do about it. ‘helping who’s going to help their game or anything they can help me, that’s going to help my game. We’re just pushing everyone to be better players. “
This coolness should help Elliott. He showed signs of slowing down last season, as he recorded a low of 4.0 yards per carry and 6.5 yards per reception. Part of that was due to the Cowboys quarterback’s appalling situation after Dak Prescott’s injury, but even when Prescott was healthy, Elliott was only averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
So far in 2021, Elliott is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, but that includes a game against the Buccaneers’ fourth-ranked run defense. In a larger sample, this number should improve.
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Elliott also acknowledged that his downhill style is different from that of Pollard, who he described as “faster” and “easier”. As such, mixing them up helps the Cowboys offense make opposing defenses look different.
“I think it helps a lot just because we have different racing styles,” said Elliott. “We’re going to run different tracks differently and the defense will have to adapt those tracks differently. So if they get used to me hammering it for 10 games, then TP comes in and they’re used to adapting the tracks that way.
“But TP is a faster, more devious back, so he could adjust to a slightly different run. That leaves the defense guessing. It changes. It’s a change of pace, and as you’ve seen, that works well. “
Indeed, it worked for the Cowboys, and Pollard’s stats across two games were particularly impressive.
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Tony Pollard’s Stats vs. Ezekiel Elliott’s Stats
So far, Pollard has been the more efficient of the two Dallas fullbacks. He ranks No. 1 in the NFL in yards per carry among running backs with more than 10 carries. He is also ranked as the No.1 running back in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (although he did not meet the minimum snap threshold to qualify for the official PFF rankings).
Elliott was less efficient than Pollard, but he was still productive in the Dallas offense. He also played a key role in protecting passes, as he officially played nine pass-blocking snaps compared to just four for Pollard.
Here’s a look at how the two running backs compare in each major statistic category.
|Player||Percentage of snaps played||Door||Precipitation course||Yards per transport||Hurried TDs||Receptions||Reception course||Receipt of TD|
Again, this is a small sample and it’s worth noting that 11 of Elliott’s runs met with a strong run defense against the Buccaneers when Pollard had just three runs against them. However, Pollard has certainly put himself on the map with his production so far this season. As long as he continues to produce on this clip, he will be removing some touches from Elliott.
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Why Ezekiel Elliott is still back at the top of the Cowboys
The Cowboys still seem to view Elliott as the leader of the team. After all, he’s played nearly triple the number of snaps Pollard has (Elliott played 114 while Pollard recorded 41).
Pollard received a touch in 56% of his shots while Elliott only got 27.2%. What does it mean? It seems the Cowboys would rather use Elliott more as a lure or pass blocker than Pollard. This makes sense since Elliott managed to block passes in 2021, as many saw against the Buccaneers in Week 1.
“In each game, I am given a job. My job is to do my job to the best of my ability, ”said Elliott after that game. “I take great pride in being complete. The Blitz pickup is important to a running back. You have to keep the quarterback safe and intact.”
Prescott is returning from an injury that cost him most of the 2021 NFL season. As long as Elliott continues to protect him, he will continue to outdo Pollard every week. Don’t be surprised if the keys are split as Dallas looks to get Elliott some time out and take advantage of Pollard’s explosive ability.
This should help veteran Elliott stay fresher deeper into the 2021 campaign.