Mike McCarthy Reveals Ezekiel Elliott’s Role in Cowboys Backfield

The Cowboys head coach told reporters this week that the team will use a running back by committee approach this coming season.
Jan 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21)
Jan 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys knowingly neglected the running back position at the start of free agency after losing starter Tony Pollard to the Tennessee Titans. There were a lot of notable free-agent running backs such as Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, etc. that could have been an easy fix to their running back woes.

Instead, Dallas opted to re-sign Rico Dowdle and sign veteran Royce Freeman to compete for snaps with second-year running back Deuce Vaughn. With Freeman, Dowdle, and Vaughn not sounding too promising for Cowboys fans, the team reunited with veteran Ezekiel Elliott on a one-year deal after spending the 2023 season with the New England Patriots.

Elliott isn’t the same running back that Cowboys fans remember in 2022 when he posted 876 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. However, the former first-round pick is a notable upgrade over what the team had before they signed him.

Cowboys News: Dallas Will Use Running Back by Committee in 2024

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy met with the media this week and was asked if he expects Elliott to be the same guy he saw in Dallas for several years. McCarthy doesn’t expect Elliott to be the feature back in 2024.

“I don’t think that’s fair. The guy carried the ball more than anybody in the history of football in the first couple years,” McCarthy said (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). “That’s not going to be his role. We’re running back by committee, but I think he’ll definitely play at the level that he’s played, I know, in my time here. I anticipate that. I don’t see any drop off in the way he moves.”

It’s good to hear McCarthy caution fans and media alike to temper their expectations for the 28-year-old Elliott. No one should think the veteran running back will carry the ball 25-plus times a game this coming season after averaging 3.5 yards per carry (career-worst) last season.

When the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth overall pick in 2016, the former Ohio State star running back averaged 292.3 carries per season over his first four years in the league. It would be shocking to see Elliott have 200 carries this season if the Cowboys are truly going to lean on a running back by committee approach.

That said, Elliott has the most talent in the Cowboys’ backfield and they’ll need him to find some of that 2022 magic to help Dallas win the NFC East crown (+120 on FanDuel Sportsbook) for the second consecutive season.

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