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Jerry Jones Says Ezekiel Elliott 'Has to Be the Focus' in Cowboys' Rushing Attack

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 30, 2022

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stressed the importance of running back Ezekiel Elliott to the team's success in 2022 on Saturday.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Jones said that Elliott has to be the "focus" of the Cowboys' running game this season.

Jones also expressed his belief that "there is room" for both Elliott and backup running back Tony Pollard on the field at the same time.

Elliott has been the subject of criticism since last season, which was the least-efficient campaign of his six-year NFL career.

Although Elliott rushed for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns in 17 games, his 4.2 yards-per-carry average was the third-lowest of his career and his 287 receiving yards were the second-fewest of his career.

He also averaged a career-low 58.9 rushing yards per game after leading the NFL in that category in each of his first three seasons.

Elliott averaged 95.0 or more rushing yards per game in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but it has dropped sharply since then from 84.8 to 65.3 to 58.9.

Last season's struggles are especially problematic since the Cowboys invested heavily in Elliott prior to the 2019 season, signing him to a six-year, $90 million contract extension.

That isn't usually advisable due to the short shelf life of NFL running backs, but the Cowboys rolled the dice on a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro after his first three NFL seasons.

Elliott initially delivered with a Pro Bowl season in 2019 that saw him rush for 1,357 yards and 12 scores, but he hasn't been as effective or explosive since then, averaging a career-low 4.0 yards per carry in 2020 before his struggles last season.

Meanwhile, Pollard has emerged as an electric offensive weapon for Dallas and is coming off his best season.

In 2021, Pollard rushed for 719 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 5.5 yards per tote. He also caught 39 passes for 337 yards as the primary receiving option out of the backfield.

Pollard's growth means Dallas may have to reconsider making Elliott the focal point if he gets off to a slow start in 2022, especially since the Philadelphia Eagles seem to have closed the gap significantly in the NFC East.

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