Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott Expected to Have 'Serious Load' vs. Saints, Jerry Jones Says

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVNovember 30, 2021

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs against the Atlanta Falcons during an NFL Football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is dealing with a nagging knee injury, but team owner Jerry Jones doesn't believe he will miss Thursday night's game against the New Orleans Saints.

Speaking on 105.3 The Fan (h/t Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Jones said he expects Elliott to have a "serious load" in Thursday's game.

Elliott told Nick Eatman of the Cowboys' official website this week that he first injured his knee on Oct. 3 against the Carolina Panthers. Zeke has played through the injury and has yet to miss a game this season.

Regarding whether he plans to continue managing the injury rather than sitting out games, Elliott told Eatman: "Yeah, I think so. No one has come to me and asked me to rest. If they bring it up to me, I've just got to go with what they think is best for the team, and leave it at that."

While the 26-year-old Elliott has played through his ailment, he clearly hasn't been as effective as he was earlier in the season.

Since rushing for 110 yards against the New York Giants one week after suffering the knee injury against Carolina, Elliott has not rushed for more than 69 yards in a single game.

His rushing total has dropped in each of the past four games from 51 yards to 41 to 32 to a season-low 25 against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving, and he has averaged 3.6 yards per carry or less in each of the past three games as well.

Elliott's overall numbers this season of 720 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground for a yards-per-carry average of 4.5—plus 38 receptions for 228 yards and one touchdown—look solid, but most of his damage from a rushing perspective was done over the first five games of the season.

Zeke has been an effective pass-catcher while struggling as a runner, though, with six receptions in each of the past two games and an average of nearly five catches per game over the past six contests.

One factor that has lent some credence to the idea of sitting Elliott for a game or two is the presence of backup running back Tony Pollard.

The third-year man has played well when called upon, rushing for 531 yards on a 5.3 yards-per-carry average this season, while also making 29 grabs for 256 yards. He even returned a kickoff for a touchdown in last week's 36-33 loss to Las Vegas in overtime.

Dallas has now lost three of its past four games after a 6-1 start to the season, and things are starting to get interesting in the NFC East with the Washington Football Team now just two games behind the 7-4 Cowboys at 5-6.

The Cowboys are in desperate need of a win, and the expectation is they should beat a Saints team that has now lost four in a row in its own right.

It could be tough sledding for Elliott and the Dallas running game on Thursday night, however, since the Saints rank third in the NFL against the run with 91.9 yards allowed per game.