Do you hear that? It’s the sound of fantasy football players panicking *OUT LOUD* about Ezekiel Elliott this morning. The narrative surrounding Elliott this offseason was that he’s ready to return to the dominant form we grew accustomed to seeing from him during his peak years.
That certainly wasn’t the case on Thursday night. The Cowboys kicked off their 2021 season with a 31-29 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas entered the night with a focused approach in mind. Simply put, they tried to ride star quarterback Dak Prescott to victory. Prescott looked fantastic while attempting an astounding 58 passes. Elliott on the other hand? He was a forgotten man, and finished the contest with just 33 yards on a measly 11 carries.
Elliott’s lack of usage on Thursday does beg an important question. Is there cause for concern, or was his lack of involvement game-plan specific? The true answer will be revealed in the coming weeks, but in the words of Aaron Rodgers, I’m here to tell you to RRRR-EEEE-LAXXXXXX. Elliott will be just fine and he’ll be much more involved going forward.
I thought the Cowboys entered the night with the right mindset. The Buccaneers possess the best run defense in the league. They were the stingiest unit in that department in 2020 when they gave up just 80.6 yards on the ground per contest, and there’s no reason to believe things will be different in 2021. Last I checked, the likes of Devin White, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, and Jason Pierre-Paul are still in Tampa Bay, and they added Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to the mix. You are NOT going to run the football on this defense.
If Tampa Bay has a weakness, it’s at cornerback and that issue was magnified on Thursday. Their secondary had no answer for the likes of Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Both Cooper and Lamb went over 100 yards while absolutely toying with the Buccaneers’ secondary on what felt like a snap-by-snap basis (I’m looking at you, Jamel Dean).
Let’s not forget that Dallas’ star right guard Zack Martin missed this game while on the Reserve-COVID list. The Cowboys knew their offensive line was without their key performer against a talented front. Head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore decided to deploy Elliott as an extra blocker in pass protection on a frequent basis. Elliott rose up to the challenge and looked excellent in pass pro for most of the night
When considering all of the factors I just laid out for you, I had zero issues with Elliott’s usage in this game. So before you start panicking and selling low on Elliott, give it a few weeks. Do you expect Prescott to throw the ball 58 times every game? I sure as heck don’t. Stay patient with Elliott. He has much better performances in store.