If Ezekiel Elliott does elect to hold out from Cowboys training camp then fans should expect the story to turn into a media firestorm. That doesn’t mean it will do anything to derail Dallas’ hopes of making a magical Super Bowl run in 2019. In fact, Elliott skipping out on training camp could actually increase the Cowboys’ chances of winning a title this season.
For what it’s worth, head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t believe Elliott plans to hold out. He recently told reporters that he anticipates his Pro Bowl running back heading to California with his teammates when they depart on Thursday.
That belief flies in the face of recent reports that insist Elliott plans to hold out to put pressure on the organization to hand him a new contract. The talented running back is only due a total compensation of just under $8 million in his fourth season with the Cowboys. That’s a clear value contract for the team based on Elliott’s extremely high production level.
The trick in coming to terms with Elliott will be for the Cowboys to avoid committing too much salary to one of the most replaceable positions in football. There’s no denying the fact that Elliott is a special talent, but smart NFL teams don’t give out big, long-term deals to running backs any longer. Progressive franchises understand that running backs have the shortest prime of any position. Dallas would be better off paying Elliott big money via a one or two-year deal rather than giving him the full four or five-year deal he covets.
Ultimately, the Cowboys only need to be concerned with getting Elliott into camp in just enough time to prepare him to play against the Giants in their regular season opener. The fact that he might miss several preseason games and weeks of practice shouldn’t concern Garrett and his coaching staff in the slightest.
New offensive Kellen Moore is hoping to install a more progressive offensive scheme during the preseason, but it still won’t change a ton for Elliott. He’ll be heavily utilized in the scheme as both a rusher and pass-catcher. If anything, Moore might look to increase the number of times Elliott is able to catch the ball in space.
That doesn’t mean Elliott will need to learn an entirely new route tree. Moore might give him a few more concepts to work on, but won’t be enough to trouble the Pro Bowler. If Elliott can get to work a week before the regular season begins he can catch on to everything his new offensive system might require.
His absence from training camp can benefit the Cowboys by giving more reps to other running backs hoping to make an impact on the roster. In particular, two of Dallas’ rookie draft picks are hoping to cut into Elliott’s touches. Tony Pollard was selected in the fourth round and will expect to compete with Darius Jackson for the back-up role. Seventh round selection Mike Weber will be working hard to find a spot on the 53-man roster. Both rookies should get a lot more preseason work without spending time on the sidelines to watch Elliott work.
The biggest benefit for the Cowboys will be preventing Elliott’s body from suffering any unnecessary wear and tear during the preseason. Aside from the obvious risk of injury, it’s also crucial that Dallas keep Elliott fresh for a potential postseason run. That will require Garrett and his staff to be more judicious with their use of Garrett during the regular season.
Don’t expect that reduction is usage to be enough to keep Elliott out of the MVP conversation. If he puts up good numbers for a Cowboys team that looks like a legitimate Super Bowl contender down the stretch, he’s going to get a ton of consideration for that prestigious honor. Currently, you can get odds as high as 60 to 1 for Elliott to bring home that hardware which represents excellent value.
The bottom line is that no one should worry about Elliott until he shows up in camp. As long as that happens before the regular season kicks off, then the Cowboys should be set up for a big year. Nothing that Elliott can do in the preseason will do anything to increase his team’s chances of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy when all is said and done.