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Cowboys to utilize running back-by-committee approach: What it means for Ezekiel Elliott

Cowboys to utilize running back-by-committee approach: What it means for Ezekiel Elliott


FRISCO, Texas — Three-time Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott returns to the Dallas Cowboys in 2024, and as far as his presence in the locker room, nothing has changed.  

“It’s probably as natural of a transition that you’ll ever see,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Saturday, via The Athletic. “He walked in and he has that unbelievable smile and it’s just like he never left. Huge personality in the locker room. He definitely puts you on guard because he’s old school. He’s an old-school guy. He’ll go up and smack a 60-year-old man [McCarthy] on the ass, and it hurts. It’s those kinds of things that you just enjoy about him, not that I enjoy getting smacked on the ass, but just enjoy his personality and having him back in the building and things like that.”

However, the Cowboys’ running back room structure couldn’t be more different in Elliott’s second tour of duty in Dallas. He looks similar, in McCarthy’s eyes, how he looked in the head coach’s first three seasons with the team from 2020-2022, when the running back’s efficiency took a significant nosedive. Elliott averaged four yards a carry in 2020, 4.2 yards a carry in 2021 and 3.8 yards per carry in 2022. His last Pro Bowl selection came in 2019, Jason Garrett’s last year as head coach. 

“We’re a running back by committee [team],” McCarthy said. “But I think he’ll definitely play at the level that he’s played at in my time here [since 2020]. I don’t see any drop-off in the way he moves. He’s in good shape. … He has come in here and picked up right where he left off.”

Dallas’ coaching staff will now be forced to become more creative as they won’t simply be slotting in either Elliott or the departed Tony Pollard as the primary ball carrier.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because none of the last seven Super Bowl champions had a player rush for 1,000 or more yards. The last team to win it all and have a 1,000-yard rusher was all the way back in the 2016 season when a 30-year-old LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,161 rushing yards on 299 carries for the New England Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady finished second in NFL MVP voting that season. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge. I think it’s exciting,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Tuesday when asked about being a running back by committee team.  “I think part of our process now is figuring out what all these guys do. Well, it’s…

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