Ezekiel Elliott has proved able to leap defensive backs in a single bound or run them over like a locomotive.
Eagles safety Rodney McLeod found that out on back-to-back plays last week. Elliott ran over him for a 25-yard gain and then leaped over him for a 13-yard gain.
“He certainly finishes runs differently at different times,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Thursday. “I think we’ve all see that. We saw it the other night where he runs a guy over; he hurdles a guy; he tries to make a guy miss. I think from my experience, the best runners are able to do that. He has a really good feel for running the football, both through the line of scrimmage and then once he gets to the second and third levels of the defense. He’s a good football player and a big part of what he does well is finish. It’s a good thing for our football team to see a runner finishing north and south over and over and over again.”
Elliott first displayed his physicalness in the preseason when Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, one of the hardest-hitting players in the league, tried to give the running back his “welcome-to-the-NFL moment.” Instead, Elliott ran over Chancellor, who later drew an unnecessary roughness penalty against Elliott.
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Other defensive backs since have felt Elliott’s pain.
“I wouldn’t say like I look for [contact],” Elliott said. “I just think during the game there has to be a moment when you have to set the tone; you have to let them know you are a physical player. When you let those defensive backs know you’re a physical player, they don’t really want to tackle you. That’s it. That’s why you see me get a hurdle every game. Those guys don’t want to tackle me when I get to the second level.”
The Cowboys have not talked about Elliott’s hurdling, Garrett said. With defensive backs resorting to trying to cut him, Elliott is sending a message by jumping over them.
“I don’t claim to tell these runners how to run,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “There’s definitely a fundamental approach. There’s a time for all those kinds of things. Zeke has a very unique style, a very physical runner. People know that so they’re going to be physical with him. It’s football, so you have to make adjustments as you go. You certainly can’t lean on one part of your game too much. But he has a pretty good idea of how that works and he does a nice job of setting the tone as a physical back.”