Ezekiel Elliott had never been benched before last Sunday.
Coughing the ball up twice in the second half, one in which was lost, landed Elliott on the bench for the final 6:56 of the Cowboys’ 27-23 victory over the Redskins.
That, coupled with his relatively slow start compared to most preseason expectations, has put Elliott at the center of much scrutiny and criticism from outsiders.
Most expected the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State to put up big-time numbers running behind arguably the best offensive line in the league. But Elliott has averaged 3.3 yards a carry and has 134 rushing yards.
Those numbers aren’t terrible – after all, Elliott is on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season – but also aren’t what most expected by Elliott coming out of the gate.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a victim of high expectations – the expectations are going to be there,” Elliott said. “I got drafted in the top five at a position that hasn’t been drafted that highly in the past couple years. The expectations are going to be high. Like I’ve said before, before the season even started, no one can expect more out of me than myself. The criticism is what I expect, honestly.”
The fumbles, though, are not something Elliott or the Cowboys would have expected. Elliott had 650 offensive touches at Ohio State, and fumbled only four times.
That must be addressed immediately, or Elliott could find himself on the bench more often.
“I’ve never been benched – so that’s new to me,” Elliott said. “But you’ve just got to respond by going to work the next day. That’s all you can do to put it all behind you. You look at the bright side, we went and got the win – that’s what we went to Washington for, is to go get that win.
“We did that. So put all that behind you and work on what you failed at the week before. That’s just how you get better as a player.”
Elliott, 21, is now focused on the Chicago Bears and playing in his first primetime game as a pro.
The Bears have allowed an average of 114.5 rushing yards per game through two games, and Elliott would love nothing more than to have his first breakout game than on Sunday night.
“It’s exciting to get on the big stage,” Elliott said. “It’s another game, it’s another week to get out there and get a win – get out there and get better. I’m not going to feel too pressured, but just go out there and get better.”