Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott got off to an inauspicious NFL start. Elliott received 25 carries in his first-ever game as a member of the Cowboys, but gained only 51 yards with those touches. His lone catch (on two targets) went for a single yard.
Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Elliott termed his NFL debut “average,” despite the fact that he did score his first career touchdown. He later stated, “That’s not why I was brought here to be average, so we’ve got a lot of work to get done. A lot to work on. But, you know, it’s the NFL. You can’t win every game, so I’ve just got to get back to work and get better next week.”
Elliott rarely had any lanes through which to run the football, a bit of a surprise considering he was operating behind what many consider the NFL’s best offensive line. Giants defensive linemen were living in the backfield on nearly every running play, in particular Olivier Vernon (who dominated La’el Collins) and Damon Harrison.
Elliott averaged just 0.5 yards per carry before contact, an atrocious number. He only reached his 2.5 per carry total by making things happen after first contact. For context, Dallas running backs averaged 2.0 yards before contact per carry last season. Extrapolating that across Elliott’s 25 carries would have yielded an extra 37.5 yards, bringing him up to around 88 yards on 25 carries. It would still have been only an average day, but it would have looked considerably better than his 25-for-51 line.
New York’s defense should prove strong against the run this season, what with Vernon, Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Johnathan Hankins on the offensive line, but it’s got to be at least somewhat concerning that the Cowboys’ group of studs up from got almost no push at all in the ground game. Some of that was the Giants keying on the run and daring rookie Dak Prescott to beat them through the air, but some of it was just their defense winning battles in the trenches. The Cowboys can’t have that happen as often with Tony Romo out, and if it does, they’re going to need Elliott to make even more happen after first contact.
Source: CBS Sports / Ezekiel Elliott on his ‘average’ first game: ‘That’s not why I was brought here’