Cowboys thinking of preserving Ezekiel Elliott, but will they?

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When the Dallas Cowboys took Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in 2016, some scoffed at the notion of taking a running back that high.

From 2006 through 2015, only six running backs went in the top 10 of the draft. Adrian Peterson, the No. 7 overall pick in 2007 to the Minnesota Vikings, was the best based on career success. In 2012, the Cleveland Browns took Trent Richardson No. 3 overall, and he was traded in his second season and was playing in the AAF earlier this spring.

In the past three seasons, no running back has as many carries (868) or yards (4,048) as Elliott, and he missed six games because of a suspension in 2017 and was held out of the season finales in both 2016 and ’18.

Elliott turns 24 in July and the Cowboys recently exercised the fifth-year option on his contract for 2020 for $9.09 million, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said the goal is to “eventually” sign their star running back to a contract extension.

“We need some good running back skill behind Zeke,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “That covers a lot of ground if you talk about what we’re doing with Zeke, but prudence tells you, you need to manage this, and these guys let us manage Zeke in a manner of speaking.”10

In his three seasons, Elliott has won two NFL rushing titles, just like the Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith did in his first three seasons. Elliott has accounted for 73 percent of the carries by Cowboys running backs and 76 percent of the rushing yards. In his first three seasons, Smith ran for 4,213 yards. His backups from 1990 through 1992 were Tommie Agee (53 carries, 213 yards in 1990), Ricky Blake (15 carries, 80 yards in 1991) and Curvin Richards (49 carries, 176 yards in 1992).

In 1995, when Smith was 26, the Cowboys selected Sherman Williams in the second round to potentially lighten the load on Smith, but it never really happened (hint: Smith became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher).

Last season, the Cowboys did not feel as comfortable in giving Elliott breaks with Rod Smith as the top backup as they did when they had more proven backs in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden in 2016 and ’17. Rod Smith had just 44 carries for 127 yards in 2018.

If something were now to happen to Elliott, the Cowboys would take a committee approach at running back with Pollard and nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“Pollard gives us some juice from the running back position, and he gives us legitimate options that threaten defenses,” Jerry Jones said. “The same thing is true with Weber. Weber, it just so happens that he is from Ohio State, but he can do some of the same things — not necessarily comparing the two — but he can do some of those same things [as Elliott]. That was a goal coming into this draft: Let’s wisely use Zeke now and in the future.”

But how much will either player be used? In Jason Garrett’s best years as head coach, the Cowboys have relied almost exclusively on one running back, either DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing in 2014, or Elliott.