The Dallas Cowboys’ Hall of Fame running backs love what they have seen from Ezekiel Elliott … aside from one thing. They want the team’s newest running back sensation to stop hurdling defenders.
“He better stop that. He better stop that. He better stop that,” Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett said. “That’s one thing that I don’t like. When you get airborne, you’re at the mercy of the hit, and sometimes you can’t protect yourself. I think as he gets older he may take that out of his repertoire. He needs to stop that. That scares me every time he gets airborne. I’m like oh….”
Elliott, a high school hurdle champion whose mother was a college hurdler, leaped over Bears safety Chris Prosinski, Eagles safety Rodney McLeod, Ravens cornerback Jerraud Powers and Bucs safety Bradley McDougald his rookie season.
“Get on the ground as quickly as possible,” Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith said. “Every time I watch somebody run, I’m looking very closely, very tentatively, seeing how they fall because a lot of things happen when you fall.”
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Dorsett and Smith, though, love what Elliott did his rookie season. Elliott led the league in rushing with a team-rookie record 1,631 yards with 15 rushing touchdowns, tying for third in league MVP voting.
“I didn’t know much about Zeke, and I was wondering what was this draft choice all about, but he showed me what he was all about,” Dorsett said.
Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, rushed for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1990 after the Cowboys made him the 17th overall choice. Dorsett gained 1,007 yards and scored 12 rushing touchdowns in 1977 after the Cowboys traded up and made him the second overall choice.
“He’s behind his shoulder pads,” Smith said of Elliott. “He’s always falling forward. Great vision, tremendous speed, got a hell of a jump cut, and I mean he’s playing chess while others out there are playing checkers. I appreciate that. He’s a thinker. He’s a smart guy, and I love watching him run.”
Smith, though, said while Elliott is good at setting up runs he can become even better at it.
Elliott caught 32 passes for 363 yards, with his only receiving touchdown coming on an 83-yard screen pass against the Steelers. That’s where Elliott can most improve, Smith said.
“It’s when he gets the passes,” Smith said. “When he gets the pass plays out of the backfield, and they utilize him a lot more in the passing game because now you can hide him. Not only that, but it only helps your offense.”