What can the Cowboys expect from Ezekiel Elliott in 2024?

May 4, 2024

After months of speculation, the Dallas Cowboys officially brought back former All-Pro Running Back, Ezekiel Elliott on Monday.

Signing Elliott had been floated by Jerry Jones for almost a year.

But, it was the Cowboys’ approach to the position this offseason that turned rumors into reality.

Dallas was initially expected to pursue a running back early in free agency.

Of course, this did not happen, as the Cowboys got “out-bid” (which we’ve definitely never heard before).

Then, all seven rounds of the NFL Draft came and went with no RB selection either.

This left Dallas with few options.

Bringing home the former top-five pick was an easy, and cheap, fix.

For obvious reasons, re-signing Elliott has caused heated debate amongst fans.

And while both sides have reasonable arguments, we can at least all agree this gives the Cowboys some much-needed clarity at running back.

Now it’s time to focus on what Elliott could bring to his old stomping grounds this season.

Expectations for him are all over the place, but let’s go ahead and take a realistic look at what to expect from “Zeke” in 2024.

What can the Cowboys expect from Ezekiel Elliott in 2024? 1

What can Dallas expect from Elliott?

To get a good idea of what the Cowboys may get out of Elliott, we have to look at his most recent production.

Of course, that came in New England.

I have a soft spot for Elliott, but you can’t ignore the limited success he had when running the ball for the Patriots.

Rushing for a career-low 3.5 yards per carry, big runs and consistent gains were just not there for him.

That stat has been steadily decreasing for Elliott since the 2019 season.

The question is, was the 2023 career low because of his deficiencies, or New England’s?

The answer is a little bit of both.

Elliott was not that explosive with the Patriots, which led to holes filling up fast and an inability to consistently make guys miss, bounce outside, or outrun defenders.

At the same time, however, notable media outlets, like The 33rd Team, ranked the Patriots’ offensive line in the bottom five in the league in 2023.

If you watched any Pats games last year, you don’t need these rankings to tell you it was bad.

They were flat-out terrible offensively, especially in the passing game.

That created two things for Elliott.

Stacked boxes to run against because defenses did not fear the pass, and lots of work in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield.

Elliott caught 51 passes for New England, the most he’d had in a season since 2020.

This tells us a few things.

Is Elliott the explosive athlete and dynamic runner he used to be? No.

But the down-year in New England was not all his fault; running against blitzes all the time is tough.

He can provide major assistance in the passing game, in addition to running the ball at a solid level.

Elliott could be great for Dallas as a receiving threat, blocker, and short-yardage runner in 2024, and he may benefit from an improved offensive line.

At the same time, they can’t expect him to be his old Pro Bowl self.

He just does not have that kind of juice anymore.

What can the Cowboys expect from Ezekiel Elliott in 2024? 2

Who will be the RB1?

We have covered Elliott’s strengths, weaknesses, and expectations for 2024.

Now, we have to consider where all of that fits into the Cowboys’ offense.

Will they slot Elliott into the starting role, give him 230+ carries, and see if he can tap into his previous success?

Or, is this going to be more of a committee with 25-year-old Rico Dowdle taking on a bigger role?

You will hear a lot from Jones that Elliott is the starter, but the Dowdle scenario is more likely.

In an otherwise quiet offseason, the front office made it a priority to bring Dowdle back on a 1-year deal.

That was not for nothing.

He provided some serious juice, explosiveness, and tough running behind veteran Tony Pollard last season.

The team clearly liked what they saw.

If you think they are going to throw that to the wayside (and waste money) to run Elliott non-stop, you are mistaken.

Don’t think of the 2024 backfield as a 2016-Elliott-dominated situation.

Think of it more as Dallas trying to recreate what they had last year with Pollard and Dowdle.

Elliott is the veteran RB1, with young guys like Dowdle coming in consistently to provide explosive plays.

It is a recipe that showed decent results in 2023, and swapping Elliott for Pollard may not be as big of a fall-off as some are making it sound.

Elliott will have a big role in the offense, but not like he did in the glory days.