Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout for a new contract is expected to last into the regular season, according to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Jerry Jones on Ezekiel Elliott: "I'm operating as though right now he's going to miss regular season games. My entire expectation for what we're putting together as a team right now would anticipate with him holding out ... that he's going to miss games. I just accept that."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 30, 2019
On one hand, the Cowboys are actually being smart by not rushing to pay Zeke. Giving top of the market money to a running back with such a big workload (1,003 career touches) and a myriad of off-field concerns wouldn’t be the smartest investment.
On the other hand, the Cowboys NEED Elliott. The Dallas offensive identity is built on running the football. Just look at how they’ve ranked in rushing play percentage over the past three seasons: 1st (2016), 3rd (2017), and 10th (2018).
The Cowboys were at their worst over the last three years when Zeke missed six games due to suspension in 2017. Dallas averaged 24.4 points WITH Elliott in the lineup and just 18.3 without him that season.
Dak Prescott has especially suffered when the Cowboys have had to primarily rely on his arm instead of Zeke’s legs. Prescott’s average passer rating in games with Zeke is 99.9. Prescott’s average passer rating in games without Zeke is 80.8.
So, it’ll be fun to see how the Cowboys fare without Elliottt early in the 2019 NFL season. It’s entirely possible they’ll be fine without him since they open their campaign with three very winnable games: home versus the New York Giants in Week 1, away at Washington in Week 2, and home versus the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. It also doesn’t hurt that fourth-round rookie running back Tony Pollard has had a good summer for Dallas.
But Pollard’s no Zeke. The Cowboys are eventually going to need their star running back as their schedule gets tougher.
One would imagine Zeke will be back with the Cowboys by the time Dallas first plays the Eagles in Week 7. But maybe not. Philadelphia sure won’t be too upset if he decides not to show up. The Eagles also might not mind if the Cowboys give Zeke a foolish contract extension.