Skip to main content

Ezekiel Elliott happy to be back with Cowboys: 'It feels great to be home'

There's not been an abundance of pomp and circumstance to the Dallas Cowboys' offseason.

However, the return of a celebrated son has certainly added some life and headlines.

For Ezekiel Elliott, who returned to the Cowboys this week, it's a welcomed reunion and another chance to show the NFL world he can still run with the best of them.

He believes he showcased just that in his 2023 foray with the New England Patriots and feels he can follow it up in his Dallas return.

"Just showing I can be a starter in this league," Elliott said of what he accomplished in New England, via the Cowboys’ team website. "I can still play at a high level. I'm [going to] continue that here. … I've always prided myself on being an all-around back, back there.

"Not just running with the ball but protecting the quarterback and catching the ball out of the backfield."

Elliott's plenty happy to be back where it all began. His good friend Dak Prescott is still the quarterback, the head coach is still Mike McCarthy, the spotlight remains ever so bright, and the Cowboys' playoff success remains elusive.

"It feels great to be home," Elliott said. "I definitely missed being here. I missed this building. I missed Cowboys' nation. I'm definitely excited and ready to get this thing going."

The 2016 NFL Draft's No. 4 pick, Elliott hit the gridiron running with the Cowboys. He led the league with 322 carries, 1,631 yards and 108.7 yards per game as a rookie and became an NFL superstar. That was seven years and 2,067 touches ago, however.

It's arduous to argue Elliott has slowed a step, but it's likewise difficult to dispute he remains a versatile backfield presence, particularly valuable in the passing game -- whether it be as a blocker or an outlet.

Looking back on the Patriots' 2023 offense isn't all that thrilling an endeavor. New England sputtered along to ending the year ranked 31st in points scored and 30th in yards gained. Nonetheless, Elliott did what he could, leading the Pats with 51 receptions, 642 rushing yards and 955 scrimmage yards.

Now he's back among the stars in Dallas, where he was a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time rushing champion and one-time All-Pro. Still, Elliott's last rushing crown was in 2018, a year before his last Pro Bowl season. His yards per carry have hit all-time lows in each of his last two campaigns (3.8 with the Cowboys in 2022; 3.5 with the Patriots in 2023). Thus, thinking Elliott can rekindle the Cowboys' rushing attack is likely folly.

In an "all-in" offseason that's gone bust in the eyes of many, the Cowboys are banking on Elliott helping in every way and any way he can. He joins an RB room with former teammate Rico Dowdle and fresh faces in Deuce Vaughn and Royce Freeman.

One major change in the Cowboys' running back stable is the departure of Tony Pollard.

Toward the end of Elliott's tenure, it was Pollard's production and potential that pushed the fanbase and pundits to call for less of Zeke and more of the game-breaking Pollard. Pollard largely fell short of expectations in 2023, but nonetheless secured an impressive new contract with the Tennessee Titans. Elliott's happy for his former running mate.

"It's definitely good to see TP get paid," Elliott said. "He's a tremendous back who's had a helluva career. I'm excited for him and his family. … It'll definitely be different. Talking about the explosiveness Tony brings to the room."

Like Pollard, Dowdle hit the free-agent market, but he returned to Dallas.

Even with the return of Elliott, 29, Dowdle could still be the Cowboys' lead back, as the 25-year-old is coming off a 361-yard season that was hardly eye-popping but did offer some flashes of potential. With Dowdle's relatively fresh legs and experience with the team, he could have a more prominent role at the least.

"Rico definitely had a great year last year -- finally got his health together," Elliott said. "He was able to showcase his ability. He runs the ball super hard, and that's something I love about his game. It'll be fun to play with Rico [again] this year."

As much as Elliott's still got something to prove with his play, he's quick to embrace a leadership role as the elder statesman in the backfield corps. Indeed, Elliott is back home with the 'Boys and ready for whatever role he can fill.

"Just being in this league for as long as I have been, and being comfortable with who I am, and having as many reps as I have, I can focus on bringing other guys along and help them find their way," Elliott said. "A lot of skilled guys and guys with a lot of different talents [in our RBs room]. It'll be exciting to work with them, push each other and help each other become better football players."

Related Content