Cowboys’ roster move sends clear message about Ezekiel Elliott’s status

By not elevating Qadre Ollison- as they had done in Weeks 8 and 10- the Cowboys seem ready for the return of the two-time rushing champ. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Officially speaking, the Cowboys made just one minor roster move on Saturday. But reading between the lines, it answers a major question heading into Sunday’s NFC showdown with the 8-1 Vikings.

Dallas elevated offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley from the practice squad to the active gameday roster. As Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News points out, it’s the third time Shepley has been elevated since signing with the club just before the start of the regular season. If the Cowboys are to use him again beyond Week 11, they will have to award him a full-time roster spot.

But the bigger news, perhaps, is what it says that Shepley was the only practice squad elevation.

The Cowboys did not move up running back Qadree Ollison as they had done in their previous two outings. And that seems to be a pretty clear signal that- unlike in Week 8 versus Chicago and Week 10 against Green Bay- lead back Ezekiel Elliott will suit up and play in Minnesota.

Elliott has missed the Cowboys’ last two games with a hyperextended knee, suffered in Week 7’s win over Detroit. He has been practicing with a knee brace, and he says he plans to wear it at U.S. Bank Stadium for the important matchup that quarterback Dak Prescott characterized as “a playoff game.”

The Vikings are allowing a middle-of-the-road 118.3 rushing yards per game; Dallas is averaging 134.6 yards per game on the ground. In the two games Elliott sat out, Tony Pollard set career highs in carries (22) in Week 10 as well as rushing yards (131) and rushing touchdowns (three) in Week 8.

Elliott has just 443 rushing yards so far this season, but the team maintains that his return will bring more than just an extra set of legs to the offensive backfield.

Elliott’s bruising style of play “rubs off on guys,” guard Zack Martin told reporters this week. “I think [the combo of both Elliott and Pollard] gives us something. When you get smacked in the mouth a few times by 21, you’re going to be breaking down in the hole trying to to make a tackle.”

By not elevating Ollison from the practice squad, the Cowboys appear to be prepping for Elliott to get back to his mouth-smacking ways in Minneapolis.

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‘It’s not one against the other’: McCarthy confident in both Pollard, mending Elliott

The Cowboys coach considers himself “blessed” to have two quality RBs and knows Tony Pollard can carry the load if Ezekiel Elliott can’t go. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had “a good day of practice” on Thursday, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, taking full reps in the team portion of work even though he was officially listed on the practice report as limited.

Whether or not Elliott suits up for Sunday’s showdown with the Packers at Lambeau Field has yet to be decided, but McCarthy feels confident in his rushing attack no matter what.

“Tomorrow will be the final test” for Elliott, McCarthy told reporters in his press conference on Friday.

If the two-time rushing champ can’t go due to the knee sprain he suffered in Week 7, it will be the Tony Pollard show once again.

“Whatever they ask me to do, whatever they need me to do, I got it,” Pollard said this week, echoing the sentiment he carried into the team’s most recent outing against Chicago.

Pollard tied career-highs in rushing attempts and rushing yards in the 49-29 win and scored a personal-best three touchdowns. But while his numbers were outstanding, questions arose about his durability as a smaller-built back.

Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete suggested that Pollard had hit a wall by the time he crossed the goal line the third time against the Bears, claiming that 30 offensive snaps was probably the 209-pounder’s limit.

“I definitely can do more” than 30 snaps, Pollard said this week, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean exactly a 30-play cutoff.”

As ProFootballTalk points out, Pollard was in on 41 snaps versus Detroit, toting the rock on his final one for a 25-yard gain late in the game. And seeing a 52-snap workload against San Francisco in 2020, Pollard turned a 40-yard touchdown on his last play.

On Friday, McCarthy brushed off any notion that Pollard wouldn’t be able to handle a full load if required.

“Tony Pollard’s a man. He’s in great shape. I think Tony,” said McCarthy, “could be a No. 1 feature back.”

His stats sure seem to support that. Pollard’s in the top 20 among all rushers this season, and his average of 6.2 yards per carry is currently leading all NFL running backs who have more than six attempts.

Elliott lags in per-rush average by two yards, but at 443 yards so far this season, he still ranks 23rd leaguewide in just seven games played and is 16th in total carries.

For what it’s worth, NFL Network’s LaDanian Tomlinson picked Pollard to go off in Week 10, making a bold prediction that he’d rack up 200 rushing yards against the Packers on Sunday.

Of course, that would be much harder to do if he’s splitting time with Elliott. But McCarthy says observers are getting too caught up in the idea of which Dallas rusher gets more snaps or more carries than the other.

“I don’t look at it the way everybody wants to look at it,” the coach explained Friday on 105.3 The Fan. “It’s not one against the other; it’s the benefit of having both of them. Obviously, Tony’s numbers speak for themselves and his style of running.

“But the thing about Zeke, especially in the game like we’re getting ready to play here on Sunday: there aren’t too may people who want to tackle Ezekiel Elliott, let’s be honest. I go back to the first time I saw him play in 2016 up there [in Green Bay]. He came ripping past our sideline, and I was like, ‘Holy hell…’ He’s a powerful runner. Those are things that don’t show up on a stat sheet, but Zeke brings a toughness, an attitude, you talk about a great teammate. There are so many other great qualities that he has that do not show up as rushing attempts.”

Even in street clothes, Elliott was Pollard’s biggest cheerleader during the Week 9 win. He may be again this weekend if Pollard gets a second straight start. Or Elliott may play, knee brace and all, and share backfield duties with Pollard. The Cowboys don’t know.

And right now, with the ground game humming, McCarthy doesn’t particularly care.

“We’re so blessed to have two outstanding running backs,” McCarthy said. “The most important thing is to get both those guys their touches, but the reality is, it gives us a chance to go attack a defense and not really worry about who’s in the game.”

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Ezekiel Elliott joins chorus of Cowboys lobbying WR Odell Beckham Jr.

The running back is the latest Cowboy to publicly call for the free agent WR to come to Dallas, but will the front office make it happen? | From @ToddBrock24f7

The calls for the Cowboys to sign free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are getting louder.

And they’re coming from inside the building.

Ezekiel Elliott joined a growing chorus of Cowboys publicly lobbying for the three-time Pro Bowler to bring his pass-catching talents- and his rehabbed left knee- to Dallas. Following Wednesday’s practice, Elliott talked about what the nine-year veteran would bring to the locker room.

“We know the type of player Odell is,” Elliott said, per Patrik Walker of the team website. “We know how explosive he can be and what he can be for this offense. It’d be great to get him down here in Dallas- another weapon in our repertoire… We want him. We want OBJ.”

Beckham has been seen as a high-profile option for the Cowboys all season long, after they traded Amari Cooper to the Browns. CeeDee Lamb has taken over the WR1 role on paper, but is not having the kind of clearly dominating campaign the team had hoped for since opposing defenses have been able to make him the focus of their pass coverages.

Michael Gallup missed the first three games of the season recovering from his own ACL tear and had yet to catch more than four balls or log over 50 receiving yards in a game this year. James Washington is still waiting to make his Cowboys debut, and a host of young and/or inexperienced receivers has been left to try to provide a reliable and consistent on-field threat.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy praised Beckham, a former first-round draft pick, on Monday after a weekend report claimed that the team had Beckham “in their sights” and “firmly on their radar.”

McCarthy told reporters of the longtime Cowboys rival, “I’ve heard so many excellent things about him over the years. I think those are conversations for the future.”

That future came Tuesday when owner Jerry Jones did his coach one better, saying on Dallas radio, “Odell is someone that we have all the appreciation in the world for what he is as a competitor and know that the Cowboys star on that helmet, when he puts it on, could look pretty good.”

Former Cowboys receivers Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant have made no secret that they want to see Beckham in silver and blue, and second-year linebacker Micah Parsons made his sales pitch via a Twitter exchange with Beckham on Tuesday.

Parsons had more to say about it after Wednesday’s practice.

“[Expletive], we could use him. I think he’s a great player,” the Penn State product said, again via Walker. “He’s a guy that you want on the team. Beside all of that critic stuff that people make up and [expletive] about him, I think he’s a great dude… I think he can add real value to the team and help us do what we wanna do… If the guy is on the market and he’s talking about he wants to win games then, [expletive], me too. I wanna win games just as bad as you do. If you wanna win games, come and win games over here. Help us get to that Bowl.”

That’s exactly what Beckham did in 2021 with the Rams. After a midseason split with Cleveland, Los Angeles brought Beckham aboard for their final eight games; he scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl LVI before re-tearing the same ACL he first injured in 2020.

But even with a growing medical history and having just turned 30 years old, most believe that Beckham has plenty left in the tank, enough at least to help out on a contending team that is asking him to be an ensemble contributor, not the leading man.

But now that the coach, owner, and several A-list players have been so vocal and so up front about painting that picture for their fans, the Cowboys have all but painted their own front office into a corner when it comes to actually getting a deal done.

It starts with a phone call.

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Cowboys’ Elliott expected to play vs Packers, says he will wear knee brace

Elliott did not practice Monday but is said to be “making great progress.” He said he’ll wear a knee brace if he does return in Green Bay. | From @ToddBrock24f7

More than two weeks after suffering a knee sprain in a win over Detroit, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is still taking it easy. The team elected to hold him out of the Week 8 meeting with Chicago in hopes that the extra rest would help him be that much stronger for the entire second half of the season and playoffs.

Elliott did not practice on Monday, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, but is said to be “making great progress.” Elliott is expected to take the field when Dallas visits Green Bay on Sunday, with owner Jerry Jones confirming to 105.3 The Fan, “It’s anticipated he’ll be ready to go.”

If he does, in fact, suit up in Week 10, Elliott says he’ll wear a knee brace.

According to Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Elliott is reporting that the swelling in his knee has gone down and that it feels better than last week.

The injury came on a direct hit to the two-time rushing champ’s right knee, delivered by Lions safety DeShon Elliott in the second quarter of the Oct. 23 victory. The former first-round pick returned to the game after halftime seemingly no worse for the wear; he scored two touchdowns after the hit.

Elliott played most of the 2021 season with a PCL sprain in the same knee, though he ended up recording career-low numbers. He donned a knee brace in Week 14’s win over Washington (the first time he had done so since high school) and continued to wear it afterward for extra stability.

“It just kind of holds me in place,” he said at the time. “A lot of times when I’m kind of getting gimpy or banged up is when I kind of get rolled up, rolled on, or just land on my knee.”

Now Elliott may return to the brace as the team heads into Lambeau Field to face a Packers defense that is giving up 4.8 yards per carry.

In Elliott’s absence versus the Bears, Tony Pollard got the start and capitalized, logging career highs in rushes (14) and yards (131) and scoring three touchdowns on the ground, something not even Elliott has done in his NFL career.

But Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete claimed that Pollard’s 30 offensive snaps pushed him to his limit, and he expressed a preference to have both Pollard and Elliott available.

“Some guys are race cars. Some guys are high-quality, expensive sedans and those sedans can go for a long distance at a very high rate, whereas race cars go very fast and quick and run out of gas,” Peete said. “I think you need both.”

Assuming Elliott continues to trend upward as the week progresses, the Cowboys will have both their race car and their expensive sedan for Sunday’s drive in Green Bay.

But the sedan may be sporting a crash bar.

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How Cowboys can, should keep both Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard in ’23

The Cowboys aren’t in an untenable position here and the perfect answer doesn’t call for anyone to leave. Here’s how it would work. | From @KDDrummondNFL

One man should never count another man’s pockets. That’s a golden rule, to stay out of someone else’s financial business. If a team rewards a player with a sizable contract, the impact on the team’s salary cap is certainly a worthy conversation, but begrudging a man for reaching a higher level of financial security is never the move. When Ezekiel Elliott received a six-year, $90 million extension in September 2019 it was the richest contract for a running back in NFL history.

Elliott’s value to Dallas at the time went well beyond his record-setting ways of being the first Cowboys RB to lead the league in rushing average for three straight years (all in his first three years), and one of only 13 players who has averaged 95 yards a game or better 3 or more times. That list is Elliott, Derrick Henry, Priest Holmes and 10 Hall of Famers. But now, in the fourth year of that extension and with teammate Tony Pollard set to hit free agency, it’s time to talk about what’s best for the club moving forward.

Cowboys’ McCarthy: Ezekiel Elliott will not practice Wednesday with knee sprain

Elliott suffered a “knee sprain” in the game versus Detroit, but it’s apparently not the same sprain he sustained early last season. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Just as the Cowboys’ double-punch run game has begun to look consistently strong enough to quiet the debate about whether Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard should get the majority of snaps at running back, the team is suddenly in some danger of being without one of them for their next contest.

Elliott will not take part in Wednesday’s practice, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. The two-time rushing champ will instead work off to the side with director of rehabilitation Britt Brown after a scary-looking direct hit to his right knee in the Week 7 win over Detroit.

McCarthy labeled the injury a “knee sprain” during his Wednesday press conference, but it’s supposedly not the same PCL sprain that Elliott suffered in Week 4 last season. He played the rest of the year through that injury.

The veteran returned to action after this most recent incident, too, and ended the day with 15 carries, 57 yards, two touchdowns, and one impressive hurdle of a Lions defender.

“I think I got a contusion on it,” Elliott said after the Cowboys’ 24-6 win.

Wednesday may well be just a take-it-easy, abundance-of-caution day for Elliott, with Thursday and Friday’s participation reports deciding whether he’ll suit up Sunday for a meeting with Chicago. The Bears are giving up an average of 149.7 rushing yards per game, third-most in the league through seven games.

Pollard saw a season-high 41 offensive snaps (second-most in his career) in Week 6’s ground-heavy attack. McCarthy says he has no concerns about the fourth-year man playing even more if Elliott cannot go.

“We’re so, so fortunate to have both Tony and Zeke here. I think they’re both fully capable of carrying a full load,” the coach told media members Wednesday morning. “I think Tony Pollard is a very good between-the-tackles runner. He’s in the crease as it opens. That’s a huge characteristic that I’ve always looked for when you’re evaluating a running back.”

McCarthy says the team’s upcoming Week 9 bye will have no bearing on whether Elliott sits out this Sunday, to ostensibly give his knee an extended break before the Cowboys face a tough stretch of opponents (Packers, Vikings, Giants) immediately afterward.

“That’s just not the way we approach it. We’ll just see how he responds today, and Britt will continue to build the plan based off what they accomplish today.”

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‘I’ll bet he jumps a guy’: Cowboys’ Prescott knew Ezekiel Elliott would provide highlight

Elliott saved his best for late in the game, leaping a defender and scoring twice to beat Detroit, all after taking a scary hit to his knee. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Nervous moments early followed by a gritty performance, late success, and ultimately, a happy ending.

That’s the story of the Cowboys’ 24-6 win over Detroit in Week 7, but it’s also the story of just another Sunday for Ezekiel Elijah Elliott.

The Cowboys running back turned in another strong showing on a day when all eyes were on the return of Dak Prescott to the Dallas passing attack. Elliott ended the afternoon with just 57 yards on 15 carries and wasn’t involved in the air game at all.

But his two one-yard scores were gigantic. The first, in the third quarter, reclaimed a lead for Dallas that they never relinquished. The second served as the kill shot, putting the Cowboys up by 11 with under three minutes to play.

It was the first time Elliott’s rushed for multiple touchdowns in a single game since Week 10 of last season, and it moved him into a tie with Jason Witten (5th place in franchise history) for the most career touchdowns from scrimmage.

But the play that most will remember from Sunday’s win is Elliott’s running leap over a defender on an 18-yard gain. It’s a move that Cowboys fans have seen numerous times, though the former high school hurdles champ hadn’t broken it out in a while.

“He actually was practicing the hurdle in practice,” Prescott told reporters from the podium after the win. “He didn’t jump over him, but he did the whole slow-feet stutter, and I’m like, ‘I’ll bet he jumps a guy this week,’ and sure enough, it just happened.”

What made the move even more impressive was that Elliott seemed lucky to still be running at all at that point in the game. Earlier, in the second quarter, he took a scary-looking hit to the knee on a 14-yard pickup just before halftime.

It looked bad, but Elliott was able to return to action and seemed no worse for the wear. His first half stats: seven carries for 28 yards. Then, eight carries for 29 yards- and the two touchdowns- after the hit to his knee.

“I think I got a contusion on it,” Elliott said afterward. “Still need to go back there and talk to the trainers.”

Elliott’s right knee was a problem for most of last season, too, after he suffered a partial PCL tear in Week 4 and played on it for the rest of the year. He came back in the offseason ready to show that he hadn’t lost a step, and his quarterback took notice early on.

“That shows his toughness,” Prescott reflected. “When he got himself better and got himself healthy, I saw it in the spring, just the bounce in his step, the way he’s moving, the cuts he’s made. Even when he got hurt, that’s a guy trying to cut back in and make a play that he knows he can make. He’s impressive, just his approach each and every day, the way he goes about it.”

The result was the latest chapter in what’s become a familiar story for the two-time rushing king: generally fewer attempts than he was getting earlier in his career, and for more modest yardage totals- he hasn’t topped 100 in over a calendar year- but now acting as a battering ram meant to wear opposing defenses down over a sixty-minute span.

“I think that’s kind of how the year’s been,” Elliott told media members. “It’s been grinding, tough games. It’s the NFL; you’re not going to have any gimmes.”

The hard hits will happen, the scary moments just a part of the game for a punishing, physical runner like Elliott. But his warrior mentality allows him to soldier on.

And sometimes, even end up being the (slightly-hobbled) hero.

“He’s relentless,” Prescott said. “When I saw the play, I thought it was a little ugly. I’m like, ‘I hope he’s fine.’ Ran over to the sideline; he said he’ll be good, and it wasn’t too long before he was jumping a guy. That’s Zeke for you.”

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Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott leaves 1st half after hit on right knee

The Cowboys bruising running back suffered a strong hit to his knee, but could return in second half. | From @CDBurnett7

The Cowboys are beneficiaries in 2022 of the two-back tandem of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The latter has been the hme-run back while Elliott’s numbers don’t tell the full story of how impressive he’s been this season. Until the Lions game, Elliott was perfect on 3rd-and-1, a great thing to lean on especially when quarterback Cooper Rush was leading the offense.

Late in the first half against Detroit, Elliott broke loose for a 14-yard gain but took a hit directly to his knee from safety Deshon Elliott. After the contact, Elliott stayed on the ground and was checked on by trainers, a rare sight for a player who prides himself in his physicality.

Elliott jogged off to the sideline after the hit and was quickly back and ready to take the field. Quarterback Dak Prescott went and checked on his running back during the timeout and it appeared that it was only a scare.

The drive came to a halt after a fumble by wide receiver Noah Brown and Elliott will have to wait to retake the field till the second half with a 6-3 deficit in Dallas.

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Cowboys’ Elliott, Pollard look to feast against Lions’ last-place run D, no matter who’s under center

With Dallas’ rushing attack suddenly a team strength and Detroit dead last in rushing yards allowed per game, who plays QB may not matter. | From @ToddBrock24f7

While the focus in Dallas this week has been whether or not starting quarterback Dak Prescott will make his return, the real answer to getting back in the win column this coming Sunday against the Lions may rest on the shoulders- or more accurately, the legs- of the tandem threat lined up behind him.

The Cowboys’ run game has been effective so far this season, to the tune of 118.8 yards per outing. Ezekiel Elliott’s 386 rushing yards places him 15th in the league overall, while Tony Pollard is averaging 5.3 yards per attempt, 12th-best among all players with double-digits carries.

“Zeke’s done a really nice job,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said in a Tuesday press conference. “Him and Tony kind of doing it together, those guys are big parts of this. We love getting those guys touches, and certainly the run game has been a real positive thing for us the last few weeks.”

While the heavy ground commitment has been partly a way to simplify things for backup passer Cooper Rush over the past five games, it’s also been one of the Cowboys’ strengths on that side of the ball.

And now, getting Prescott back after September surgery on his throwing thumb and almost six weeks of rehab may not alter the offensive game plan much.

“Nothing will change,” head coach Mike McCarty told reporters on Monday. “The only thing that will change is how we view the defense we’re getting ready to play and how we want to attack them.”

With the Lions set to visit, Elliott and Pollard may want to do a little extra stretching. Detroit ranks dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, averaging 167.6 over their five games played.

Elliott and Pollard will look to build off their strong performances last week against a fierce Eagles defense. While their stats weren’t necessarily eye-popping- 81 yards for Elliott and 44 for Pollard- the two nearly matched Philadelphia’s team rushing total… but did it on 15 fewer carries. More important, the duo kept Dallas in the game on a night when Rush struggled.

“There were a few runs where I’m like, ‘Oh, we got stuffed,’ and the next thing you know, they push the pile and it’s a four-yard gain,” Rush said after the 26-17 loss, “Kind of showing who we are there.”

It’s who the Cowboys say they’ll try to stay even after Prescott reclaims his starting spot. Dallas may choose to lean on their two-pronged rushing attack again versus Detroit just to allow Prescott time to shake off the rust. But the veteran’s mere presence under center will no doubt give the Lions an extra threat to honor. And if that’s enough to help pave the way for even more rushing yards, so much the better.

“We’re ready to get 4 back,” Elliott confirmed. “As long as he’s healthy and ready to go, it’ll be good to get him back.”

Indeed. Even if Prescott’s primary job this Sunday afternoon is turning and handing the ball to the crash-and-slash combo behind him.

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Ezekiel Elliott’s performance in Cowboys’ loss to Eagles shouldn’t get lost in shuffle

Dallas’ work horse isn’t used to losing nor poor performances against Philly, but playing his part wasn’t enough on Sunday night. A look at Elliott’s big day in a loss, from @TimLettiero

Ezekiel Elliott isn’t used to either losing or performing poorly when it comes to his matchups with the Philadelphia Eagles. The seventh-year veteran averaged over 97 yards a game against the division rival and in games he had played in the Cowboys were a gaudy 8-2. But this matchup was clearly going to be one of the tougher challenges for the veteran and it started out rough for everyone on the Dallas sideline.

Initially, it felt as if there was no chance Dallas would come close to winning their Week 6 matchup. Down 20-0 nearing halftime against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys’ offense turned their gameplay around and decided to let the running game steady the ship. The traditional settling aspect, when things are going off script and the passing game isn’t working was once again summoned, and once again it answered the call. While the team would ultimately lose by two scores, the run game helped propel Dallas to a much more convincing effort, putting the club in position to steal a win, but one the other pieces ultimately couldn’t take advantage of.