The "Feed Zeke" mindset isn’t going to change for the Dallas Cowboys.
That’s more than OK with running back Ezekiel Elliott, of course.
"I’m all for it, you know what I mean?” Elliott said as the Cowboys wrapped up minicamp on Thursday.
"A lot is asked from the running back for the Dallas Cowboys, a lot has been asked for me the past two seasons, and I think I’ve had some great strides this offseason getting ready to carry that workload this season."
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Running backs coach Gary Brown made it clear that Elliott will be relied upon heavily, particularly early on with an unproven cast of receivers. But this isn’t a change in philosophy by the Cowboys.
Elliott has been the focal point since joining the organization as the fourth overall pick in 2016. He led the NFL in rushing his rookie season, and was off to another strong start last season before serving a six-game suspension in the middle of it for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
How much did the Cowboys rely on Elliott? They put the ball in his hands 39 percent of the time on offense.
Elliott combined for 268 touches (242 rushes and 26 receptions) of the 691 offensive snaps during the 10 games he played. That number could increase this season.
As Brown retold what he said to Elliott, “Come in and be in the best shape of your life. Be ready to get a lot of carries early. It is going to be a situation where defenses are going to try to stop us. They are going to try their best, but they are not going to be able to.”
Elliott, who turns 23 next month, is carrying that same mindset into Year 3. He expects to have a standout season, but wasn’t going to publicly state any particular rushing numbers he’d like to put up.
"We’re just going to go in with the goal of winning the next game," Elliott said. "It’s not really about that bigger picture yet. Right now, it’s so early we’re just focusing on developing that camaraderie and getting ready for camp."
Elliott will spend this five-week break until training camp by taking some time off, but staying engaged with his teammates and his workout routine. He is trying to become more of a leader for the team and has discussed with quarterback Dak Prescott the importance of getting the offensive playmakers together between now and camp.
"We have a lot of young receivers and guys with a lot of skill that don’t have much experience in the pros, so I think if they want to make the impact they could make this season, then they’re going to have to come and work these next five weeks," Elliott said. "It’s going to be important for us to put in some work these next five weeks."
Elliott’s leadership has been on display during these offseason workouts with him being more vocal during drills. Then, on Thursday, coach Jason Garrett had Elliott lead the team in stretches at the beginning of practice.
Elliott said he’s becoming more comfortable in a leadership role.
"It’s a little bit tougher for me to be a vocal leader," he said. "I like to go out there and work. I think it takes a little bit more extra effort to kind of encourage guys to come with you, so it’s definitely something I had to work on."
Said wide receiver Cole Beasley: "I know he’s saying that, but I already feel like he’s been a vocal leader for us. Maybe he feels like he needs to improve, but I feel like he’s done a good job of that and been there for all of his guys. I don’t really think he needs to improve on it. I think he’s done a good job all along."