In a league where quarterbacks reign supreme and the wide receiver market is absolutely booming, it is important to not forget about the running back workhorses on offense. This past season, the Dallas Cowboys RB group had quite a year. RB1 Ezekiel Elliott was playing through injury most of the season and looked like a shell of himself at times. Meanwhile, backup Tony Pollard had a breakout season and garnered talks about getting the starting job over Elliott.
While some believe that Pollard needs more snaps, it was Elliott who ended up at the top of the running back rankings done by CBS Sports. Patrik Walker ranked the top 10 backs heading into 2022, and the Cowboys starter was above some high-profile names. Here was the final ten in order:
- Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
- Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
- Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
- Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
- Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
- Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
- Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
- Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
- David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
This is pretty impressive company. For Elliott to be above Ekeler and Jones after an off/injured season says a lot.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott ranked above Austin Ekeler and Aaron Jones in CBS Sports’ power rankings
Ekeler had 911 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns against much stiffer competition than the Cowboys faced. Elliott had more yards but fewer touchdowns and many of those yards came from padded stats in the final games of the year against easy NFC East teams.
Jones certainly didn’t have the Pro Bowl-caliber season he had in 2020, but he did have more yards per attempt and average yards per game than the Cowboy.
All we keep hearing this offseason is how Elliott is in the best shape he has been and that he is running at record speed and blowing everyone away, including his teammates. But is this the classic mirage we always get from coaches ahead of the season? Or can the former first-rounder really have a bounce-back year?
Walker seems to think the Elliott sits on the throne when it comes to the running back position in Dallas:
For all of the hubbub about Tony Pollard, a justifiable nod to the potential of the Cowboys backup, it’s still Elliott’s throne in Dallas and for good reason. The former two-time NFL rushing champ was off to a blazing start to the 2021 season that saw him as fast, quick and decisive as he’s ever been, but he was slowed by injury in the back half of the season that made many forget what he was doing prior to that point. And, even though the Cowboys should have shut him down for a few games to rest what was later revealed as a torn PCL in his knee, he was still able to play through the ailment en route to another 1,000-yard season (1,289 yards from scrimmage) with 12 total touchdowns. If he can do all of that on a bum knee, imagine what he can do on two good ones, as was the case early on last season.
It’s true that Elliott did still break 1,000 yards last season despite the injury. That does give us hope for 2022. However, it cannot be stressed enough that a lot of those yards were padded in those final dominating wins against the Eagles and Commanders.
Ahead of the year where the front office has an out in his massive contract, Elliott has a lot to prove. The hope is that he can prove to Cowboys Nation that he’s worth all of the money that is going into his bank account.