There are few things that internet sports fans love to discuss as much as they do the value of running backs in today’s NFL.
General consensus seems to be that runners, even elite ones, are not worth legitimate paydays. The market for the position is seemingly in a crisis that no other football players are really experiencing, The Ringer’s Kevin Clark recently wrote about what the future here could look like
This is obviously of massive interest to the Dallas Cowboys because they employ perhaps the league’s best back in Ezekiel Elliott. The reigning rushing champion (two titles in three years) is finally eligible for a new contract and one report suggested this past week that he might not report to training camp without it. That’s a dicey situation.
Of course, while the monetary value of running backs is up for debate their importance to their teams is a different thing. While generally running backs are “easy” to replace (not easy, but perhaps the easiest position across football) when you have an elite one you want to keep him. Right?
Who better to ask about the subject than someone who benefits greatly from Elliott’s on-field dominance - Dak Prescott. The quarterback is up for his own new deal, but he and Elliott have been close since entering the league together three years ago. Count him among those that highly values what Zeke (any good running back, really) can bring to his team.
“It does everything. It allows the game to open up. When you can run the ball and you can run the ball successfully all it does is open up the passing game, it opens up the play-action game. It allows you to be dominant in the second half and in the fourth quarter when you need to be to able to run out the time. We’ve got a great group of guys and our running backs are not short of that.”
Exactly how much Ezekiel Elliott opens up the Cowboys offense is hard to properly measure. As mentioned he’s led the league in rushing in two of his three seasons, it’s hardly a coincidence that those have been the ones of prominence Dallas has experienced with him on the team. Last season Amari Cooper joined the fold which really opened things up, but Zeke’s contributions are certainly appreciated.
It’s true that the play-action game is largely aided by an elite run game, and many have pined for a long time for the Cowboys to utilize it more. Football analysts are constantly screaming for more NFL teams to go play-action more and more, having Zeke and not doing it more often is something that the Cowboys need to fix.
Life without Ezekiel Elliott is one Cowboys fans have been (and had to endure, at times) contemplating due to his contractual situation. It seems like Dak Prescott wants to keep him, and other solid runners, around. Who wouldn’t?