Ezekiel Elliott missed six games serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He had the worst running day of his football life with 8 yards on nine carries in Week 2 at Denver.
But Elliott still has a realistic chance to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark going into Sunday’s season finale at Philadelphia.
The Dallas Cowboys running back needs 120 yards to join Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett as the only running backs in franchise history to begin their careers with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Elliott acknowledged that is a goal of his.
“It is, but the main goal is to go win a football game,” Elliott said. “If it happens, it happens. It’s not like you can go out there and force that, but it definitely would be nice.”
Elliott has rushed for more than 120 yards just twice in nine games this season. He did it five times his rookie season when he was the league’s rushing champion.
“It’d be a cool goal considering he didn’t play six games and against Denver we didn’t really run the ball,” right guard Zack Martin said. “I think it’d be cool for him to get to those 1,000 yards. Guys have too much pride in this locker room to go out there and not give it their all.”
Added left guard Jonathan Cooper: “Absolutely. Just our guy being able to accomplish something like that would mean a lot to us.”
Seven players have already reached the 1,000-yard mark in the NFL season. Elliott would like to join their company.
Dorsett is the only running back in Cowboys history to begin his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He rushed for 1,007 yards in 1977 and 1,325 in 1978.
Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith fell short of the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie, finishing with 937 yards. But Smith went on to post 11 consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards.
Everybody within the Cowboys understands what an accomplishment that would be.
“Super impressive,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “Speaks to his ability and this offensive line and how powerful of a runner he is and how dynamic he is. He’s an incredible player.”
Elliott returned from his six-game suspension against Seattle last Sunday. He finished with 97 yards on 24 carries, although the storyline became when the Cowboys didn’t give him the ball when they had a first-and-goal from the 3-yard-line.
But - much like after the game - Elliott didn’t buy into that controversy.
“It seems like everyone has something to say about the run/pass options, but no one had anything to say when how successful they’ve been this year, you know what I mean?” Elliott said. “We probably threw six touchdowns in run/pass options this year, so it seems like now that it doesn’t work one time that everybody has a big problem with it. But it’s been very successful for us in the past two years, so I don’t see why not try to do it right there.”
The Eagles have the top-ranked run defense in the league, holding opponents to 75.9 yards on the ground, but could rest several starters as they have secured the top overall seed in the NFC.
Elliott was suspended when the Cowboys and Eagles met for the first time last month.
He’s only faced the Eagles once in his career. Elliott rushed for 96 yards against them in the first meeting last season.
Elliott didn’t play in last year’s season finale against Philadelphia because Dallas had already locked in the No. 1 seed by that point.
And Elliott made it clear he won’t be lacking any motivation come Sunday. Even though the Cowboys are out of the playoff picture, Elliott is eager to suit up.
Not just for the 1,000 yard chase, either.
“It won’t be difficult at all. I’ve only played nine games this season, I’m itching to play football,” Elliott said. “I don’t care if we’re playing for nothing. I’m playing for something. I’m playing for myself. We’re playing for each other, and so I’m excited to go out and play Sunday. I’m not going to have any problem waking up Sunday morning getting ready to play.
“You don’t have worry about that from me, or from anyone on this team.”