Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott To Return In Week 11

The Cowboys will welcome back their top running back after a two-week absence today. Ezekiel Elliott is suiting up against the Vikings after dealing with a knee injury.

Both Elliott and the team expressed an expectation that he would be be able to play last week against the Packers, but Dallas once again turned to Tony Pollard as their workhorse back during that contest. Now, though, they will have both members of their backfield duo available against Minnesota, allowing Elliott to pick up where he left off prior to the injury.

The 27-year-old had put up 78 and 81 rushing yards – his two highest figures so far this season – in two of his last three games before suffering the injury. Overall, Elliott has amassed 443 yards and four touchdowns in 2022, averaging 4.1 yards per carry (roughly in line with his previous two seasons, but short of his career average of 4.5).

Jerry Jones recently confirmed that Elliott would remain a focal point of the Cowboys’ offense upon his return, despite Pollard’s continued effectiveness. In the two games where he was the undisputed lead back, the former fourth-rounder totaled 246 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. His 6.0 yards per carry average is a career-high, and will no doubt boost his free agency value during the coming offseason.

It is at that point that Elliott will no longer have any guaranteed money remaining on the mega-extension he signed in 2019. That has led many to expect a notable move of some kind at the position for Dallas, with Elliott’s 2023 cap hit of $16.7MM representing a significant financial burden and an obstacle to retaining Pollard. In the immediate future, though, the pair will likely once again operate in a timeshare within Dallas’ offense as the team looks to get back on track against a Vikings defense which ranks mid-pack against the run.

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott Out For Week 10

NOVEMBER 13: Unsurprisingly given the team’s moves yesterday, Elliott will be inactive once again. That will leave Pollard with a heavy workload as the undisputed lead back for the second straight week.

NOVEMBER 12: Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is listed as questionable going into this Sunday’s game in Green Bay. The team’s practice squad elevations today may hint at which direction Elliott is trending, though. Dallas is elevating running back Qadree Ollison and guard Dakoda Shepley for tomorrow afternoon’s game.

Ollison has only been called up for one game this season and appeared sparingly, but Dallas’ season trends make the elevation a decision that we can read into a bit more. The Cowboys have had three running backs active in every game this year. Elliott’s questionable designation means that he could technically be active for the game, but if he is, it will be the first game of the year for the Cowboys that they would have four active running backs available to play.

If Elliott is unable to go, Tony Pollard will take the start and the majority of the work on offense. Rico Dowdle was the third back on the roster for much of the season behind Elliott and Pollard before being placed on injured reserve a month ago. With Dowdle out, undrafted rookie Malik Davis served as the third running back for the following two games. With Elliott out last week, the Cowboys were forced to give Davis his first offensive snaps behind Pollard as Ollison made his first appearance of the season as the third back.

If the trend continues, Ollison’s call up points to an inactive Elliott, leading to a second straight game of Pollard as the lead back with Davis and Ollison backing him up.

Injury Updates: Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Seahawks

Ezekiel Elliott is expected back this weekend. After the star running back missed Week 8, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that he expects Elliott to be back on the field against the Packers on Sunday, per Jon Machota of The Athletic (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Elliott himself told Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his knee is getting better and the swelling has decreased (Twitter link). If the RB does return this weekend, he acknowledged that he’ll wear a knee brace.

Elliott has started each of his seven appearances this season. While his 63.3 rushing yards per game is about on-par with his recent performance, his yards-per-touch is currently a career-low mark (4.1). Backup Tony Pollard showed up when he earned an opportunity to start prior to the bye, finishing with 131 rushing yards on 14 carries. Despite the numbers, Jones made it clear that he’s sticking with Elliott atop the depth chart.

“There’s no argument,” Jones recently said of replacing Elliott as the starting RB. “Zeke’s ability to punish, Zeke’s ability to deliver, Zeke’s ability, what he does for us in pass protection, and, frankly, Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there, and we’re going to go as Zeke goes. I really mean he’s that integral to our success this year.”

Some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Meanwhile, Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith is about two or three weeks away from returning to practice, Stephen Jones recently said (via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas News on Twitter). If Smith requires his entire three-week window to get back into game shape, then the lineman could be eyeing a late-December return. The veteran offensive lineman suffered a hamstring injury during training camp that’s sidelined him for the first chunk of the season.
  • While Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. landed on injured reserve earlier this month thanks to an ankle issue, the injury likely won’t require surgery, coach Kevin O’Connell said (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter). Smith Jr. hasn’t started a game yet this season but has put up his standard numbers, hauling in 22 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns through seven games.
  • Damontae Kazee is expected to be activated off IR this week, and the Steelers safety provided some information on the injury that’s knocked him out for the first few months of the season. In addition to breaking his whole forearm, Kazee also suffered a dislocated wrist that “popped back into place during surgery,” per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor on Twitter. When he next takes the field, he’ll be armed with a padded brace to protect his arm. Kazee joined the Steelers this past offseason after starting 15 games for the Cowboys in 2021. Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged how much veterans like Kazee and trade-deadline acquisition William Jackson III will help the defense. “Anytime you get veteran presences, it is an asset to you,” Tomlin said (via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic). “Been-there, done-that guys, and those guys are that.”
  • Seahawks linebacker/special teams ace Cullen Gillaspia injured his knee on Sunday and will need surgery, according to ESPN’s Brady Henderson (on Twitter). Fortunately, the injury isn’t as bad as initially feared, but Gillaspia is still expected to be sidelined for some time. The former seventh-round pick joined the Seahawks practice squad back in September, but he’s since appeared in six games while playing the majority of Seattle’s special teams snaps.

Jerry Jones: Ezekiel Elliott’s Role Won’t Change

Cowboys running back Tony Pollard ran wild with Ezekiel Elliott out of the lineup on Sunday, collecting 147 yards on offense while finding the end zone on three occasions. While you could make a compelling argument that Pollard has outperformed his teammate in recent weeks, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was adamant that Elliott remains atop the depth chart.

“There’s no argument,” Jones said yesterday (h/t to Michael Baca of NFL.com). “Zeke’s ability to punish, Zeke’s ability to deliver, Zeke’s ability, what he does for us in pass protection, and, frankly, Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there, and we’re going to go as Zeke goes. I really mean he’s that integral to our success this year.”

Elliott is one of the most productive offensive players in Cowboys history, collecting 1,000-plus yards from scrimmage in each of his first six years in the NFL. However, the 27-year-old hasn’t looked like his dominant self in 2022. He 4.1 yards per touch is a career-low, and he’s generally been invisible in the passing game (eight receptions in seven games). Meanwhile, following a 2021 season that saw him top 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his career, Pollard has improved his numbers in 2022. Through eight games, the 25-year-old has averaged 6.7 yards on his 93 touches.

Elliott is almost halfway through a six-year contract he signed with the organization in 2019, and while he’s reworked his deal a few times, he still has significant cap hits in upcoming seasons. Perhaps Jones’ consistent public support of Zeke has something to do with financials, especially if the front office intends to engage in future restructures. By nurturing Elliott’s spot atop the depth chart (and, for that matter, atop the roster), the player may have more reason to continue working with the organization, especially with a pivotal option on his contract after this season.

Plus, when it comes down to it, the Cowboys have shown that they can support both Elliott and Pollard in their offense, and the two players will continue to coexist for at least the rest of the 2022 campaign. Pollard is sit to hit free agency following the season, and if he continues to perform (and if the Cowboys continue to insist that they’re sticking with Elliott), then then RB may end up finding a more significant role (and payday) elsewhere.

Ezekiel Elliott Expected To Miss Week 8

The Cowboys will be expected to turn to Tony Pollard as their lead running back this week. Ezekiel Elliott is not on track to suit up against the Bears, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets.

Battling a knee injury, Elliott not playing this week would give him an extended stretch to heal up. Dallas’ bye looms in Week 9. Jerry Jones cited the bye in addressing how the Cowboys plan to manage Elliott ahead of their Bears matchup. The owner’s comments during his most recent 105.3 The Fan appearance (Twitter links via the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken) point to the longtime starting back sitting Sunday.

Elliott suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain during the Cowboys’ Week 7 game against the Lions, Hill notes, adding the seventh-year back also sustained a thigh bruise. Mike McCarthy confirmed an MRI revealed a sprain but has not ruled Elliott out for Week 8.

The former rushing champion has not practiced this week. This is the same knee in which Elliott suffered a PCL tear in 2021. This element would certainly point to the Cowboys giving their longtime starter a longer recovery window. Given the nature of this injury, it obviously would not surprise if Elliott missed games coming out of the Cowboys’ bye week. Though, the former top-five pick has been a durable player throughout his NFL career.

Although Elliott missed six games in 2017 because of a suspension, he has never missed more than one in a season due to injury. The three-time Pro Bowler played all 18 Cowboys games last season, navigating the PCL issue to grind out a fourth 1,000-yard campaign. Zeke did not display top form as he played through that PCL injury, which could be expected, but he still scored 12 touchdowns and amassed 1,289 scrimmage yards.

This season, Elliott is averaging 4.1 yards per carry (109 totes, 443 yards). Pollard, who is in his fourth season in a change-of-pace role, is averaging 5.6 yards a pop (67 handoffs, 375 yards). The smaller back has also been a bigger part of Dallas’ passing game, totaling 105 receiving yards. Increased Pollard receiving usage came up during the offseason, but Sunday will represent a chance for more ground-game work. Pollard is on track to be a 2023 free agent, barring a Cowboys extension transpiring.

The Cowboys extended Elliott on a six-year, $90MM deal in 2019. He is tied to a $12.4MM base salary this season and a running back-high $18.2MM cap number. No other back counts more than $12MM against his team’s cap this year.

Ezekiel Elliott To Remain The “Focal Point” Of Cowboys’ Offense?

After their respective performances last season, many have envisioned a change in workload for Cowboys running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard going forward. While the latter could be in line for a more varied usage in 2022, the former is still viewed as being central to the team’s success. 

Owner Jerry Jones doubled down on Dallas’ reliance on Elliott yesterday, saying that he “has to be the focus” of the Cowboys’ run game (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). The 27-year-old has been a full-time starter since his rookie season, though he logged the lowest snap share of his career (66%) last season. Slowed for the latter stages of the campaign in particular by a knee injury, the former top-five pick still recorded 1,000 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns.

His efficiency (4.2 yards per carry) compared to Pollard (5.5), however, led to questions about which back deserved more opportunities – which continues in the build-up to this season, one in which Elliott is expected to be healthier. Jones insists that he “has to be the focal point” of the offense, as he has been in years past, including the three-year stretch to begin his career in which he led the league in rushing yards per game.

In the absence of Amari Cooper and, at least early on in the seasonMichael Gallup, Dallas’ passing game figures to look much different in 2022 and faces the possibility of being less productive than last season. Especially in that event, a return to form from Elliott would be sorely needed. From a financial perspective, it would also ease concerns about his future; Elliott has five years remaining on his current deal, but no guaranteed money is included after this season.

On the other hand, Pollard is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could play his way into a sizeable free agent deal with another career-year. As Jones added, “there is room for Pollard while Zeke is in there,” but if he has his way, the much-maligned veteran will still shoulder a heavy load as the Cowboys look to make another postseason run.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Offense

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the second reduction in NFL salary cap history last year, the 2022 cap made a record jump. This year’s salary ceiling ($208.2MM) checks in $25.7MM north of the 2021 figure.

While quarterbacks’ salaries will continue to lead the way, a handful of blockers and skill-position players carry sizable cap numbers for 2022. A few of the quarterbacks that lead the way this year may not be tied to those numbers once the regular season begins. The 49ers, Browns and Ravens have made efforts to alter these figures via trades or extensions.

Here are the top 2022 salary cap hits on the offensive side of the ball:

  1. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $38.6MM
  2. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $35.79MM
  3. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $31.42MM
  4. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $31.15MM
  5. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Packers): $28.53MM
  6. Carson Wentz, QB (Commanders): $28.29MM
  7. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $26.95MM
  8. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $24MM
  9. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $23.02MM
  10. Kenny Golladay, WR (Giants): $21.2MM
  11. Garett Bolles, T (Broncos): $21MM
  12. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $19.73MM
  13. Derek Carr, QB (Raiders): $19.38MM
  14. D.J. Humphries, T (Cardinals): $19.33MM
  15. Keenan Allen, WR (Chargers): $19.2MM
  16. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $18.9MM
  17. Sam Darnold, QB (Panthers): 18.89MM
  18. Baker Mayfield, QB (Browns): $18.89MM
  19. Matt Ryan, QB (Colts): $18.7MM
  20. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $18.55MM
  21. Donovan Smith, T (Buccaneers): $18.4MM
  22. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys): $18.22MM
  23. DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Cardinals): $17.95MM
  24. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $17.8MM
  25. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $17.71MM
  • The Chiefs’ cap sheet looks a bit different this year, with Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu off the roster. But Mahomes’ cap number rockets from $7.4MM in 2021 to the league’s second-largest figure in 2022. This marks the first time Mahomes’ 10-year contract is set to count more than $10MM toward Kansas City’s cap, with the AFC West champs not yet restructuring the deal this year.
  • Tied to a few lucrative extensions since relocating to Minnesota, Cousins’ third Vikings deal dropped his cap number from $45MM. The fifth-year Vikings QB’s cap number is set to climb past $36MM in 2023.
  • Prior to negotiating his landmark extension in March, Rodgers was set to count more than $46MM on the Packers’ payroll.
  • The 49ers are aiming to move Garoppolo’s nonguaranteed money off their payroll. That figure becomes guaranteed in Week 1, providing a key date for the franchise. San Francisco is prepared to let Garoppolo negotiate contract adjustments with other teams to facilitate a trade.
  • Wilson counts $26MM on the Seahawks’ 2022 payroll, due to the dead money the NFC West franchise incurred by trading its 10-year starter in March.
  • Jackson, Darnold and Mayfield are attached to fifth-year option salaries. Jackson’s is higher due to the former MVP having made two Pro Bowls compared to his 2018 first-round peers’ zero. The 2020 CBA separated fifth-year option values by playing time and accomplishments. The Browns and Panthers have engaged in off-and-on negotiations on divvying up Mayfield’s salary for months, while a Jackson extension remains on the radar.
  • Golladay’s cap number jumped from $4.47MM last year to the highest non-quarterback figure among offensive players. The Giants wideout’s four-year deal calls for $21MM-plus cap hits from 2023-24.
  • Prior to being traded to the Colts, who adjusted their new starter’s contract, Ryan was set to carry an NFL-record $48MM cap hit this year. The Falcons are carrying a league-record $40.5MM dead-money charge after dealing their 14-year starter.
  • The Texans restructured Tunsil’s deal in March, dropping his 2022 cap hit from $26.6MM to its present figure. Because of the adjustment, Tunsil’s 2023 cap number resides at $35.2MM

Contract information courtesy of Over The Cap 

Cowboys Notes: Cooper, Elliott, Prescott

The Cowboys face the possibility of losing a number of their big-name players on both sides of the ball. The most notable of those – not just in terms of pedigree, but also how much his contract will affect the rest of the team’s offseason plans – is Amari Cooper. Recent comments from executive vice president Stephen Jones won’t be confused with a ringing endorsement of the wideout.

As ESPN’s Todd Archer writes, Jones was non-committal when asked if Cooper would remain with the Cowboys through next season. “It’s too early for me to address that yet… we’re continuing to have conversations”, he said. Questions surrounding the 28-year-old have increased recently, due to structure of his contract. There is no more guaranteed money left on Cooper’s deal, creating the possibility the team could get out of a $22MM cap hit in each of the next three years, while incurring relatively little dead money.

The former fourth overall pick had his least productive full season in Dallas last year. While his numbers (68 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games) were still noteworthy, they fell short of expectations given his Pro Bowl pedigree, along with his contract. Moving on from Cooper could lead to a substantial overhaul of the Cowboys’ receiving corps, as Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson are each pending free agents, leaving CeeDee Lamb as essentially the only sure thing at the position.

Here are some other Dallas notes, including more remarks from Jones:

  • In contrast to Cooper, Jones spoke with more certainty about Ezekiel Elliott, saying “He’s going to be here, no question. We’re fortunate to have him”. With his money being guaranteed, that confirmation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, Archer notes, but it is still notable given the fact Elliott played through a knee injury all season. Despite being banged up, he produced 1,289 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns in 2021.
  • On a more general note, Jones suggested the Cowboys won’t treat this offseason as an ‘all-in’ year while sacrificing future cap flexibility. “We could do some things that would allow us to keep most of our guys if we wanted to push it all out, but then we’d have a much bigger problem next year and the year after”, he said (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Jon Machota). The Cowboys are currently projected to be over the cap, with several big-ticket free agents (including Randy Gregory and Dalton Schultz) still to be re-signed.
  • Lastly, head coach Mike McCarthy announced at the Combine that Dak Prescott had surgery on his left (i.e. non-throwing) shoulder at the beginning of the offseason, Field Yates of ESPN tweets. McCarthy has “no concern” about Prescott’s availability for offseason workouts, an encouraging sign given his injury history in Dallas.

Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Has Partially Torn PCL, Won’t Have Surgery

One day after another disappointing playoff exit marked the end to the Cowboys’ season, it was revealed exactly what had been ailing their top running back. Ezekiel Elliott had been playing much of the season with a partially torn PCL, although he will not require offseason surgery, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News

The injury took place in Week 4 against the Panthers, but he was able to play through it without missing any of the team’s games. He looked to be off to a great start in 2022 at that point, having scored four touchdowns and averaging more than five yards per carry. He had another big day the following week against the Giants – 21 carries for 110 yards and another touchdown – but seemed to be increasingly bothered by the injury beyond that. The team considered resting him for a game or two in November, but decided against it. Wearing a brace for the final five games of the regular season, as well as last night’s loss to the 49ers, the 26-year-old never topped 87 rushing yards from Week 6 onwards.

In the playoff game itself, Elliott totalled just 31 yards on 12 carries, and caught only one of four targets for no gain. When asked about the injury that clearly slowed him down, he said “I just partially tore my PCL this year”. He added that “it was an injury that wasn’t going to get worse”, which is why he played through it for almost an entire season. He concluded by saying “I feel like everyone else in that locker room would have done the same”.

The fact that Elliott was far from 100% makes it curious that backup Tony Pollard was as uninvolved as he was on Sunday. While he was able to resume his usual kick-retuning duties, Pollard had a total of six touches for a combined 26 yards. At this point, the team can only hope they are each healthy for the start of next year, as their offseason has now begun earlier than expected.

Tony Pollard Uncertain For Week 14

As things currently stand, the Cowboys are unsure what their running back situation will look like for Week 14. Backup Tony Pollard has called himself a “game-time decision,” per ESPN’s Ed Werder (via Twitter). 

Pollard said he suffered a torn left plantar fascia while scoring a touchdown against the Saints in Week 13, via the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken. The foot injury kept the third-year running back out of practice Wednesday, and Pollard said he is still feeling pain from the tear. With Ezekiel Elliott battling a knee injury, the Cowboys’ high-end backfield setup has taken a hit.

Pollard has enjoyed his best season to date, turning 107 carries into 602 yards and two touchdowns while adding 31 receptions for 259 yards along with a return touchdown. He delivered the Cowboys’ biggest offensive play during their win over the Saints, but that 58-yard dash — the Cowboys’ longest run in four years — proved somewhat costly.

Meanwhile, Elliott is improving from his knee injury, according to Mike McCarthy (via Werder, on Twitter). McCarthy expects both backs to play Sunday, when the Cowboys visit Washington.