Ezekiel Elliott is taking up a well-worn NFL mantra: Even the best players can improve.
The Dallas Cowboys running back led the league as a rookie with 1,631 rushing yards on 322 carries for 108.7 yards per game, despite sitting the final week of the season and getting minimal touches in Week 16. Zeke turned in an All-Pro season in which he led the NFL in 20-plus-yard runs (14) and tied for second in 40-plus-yard runs (3). His 15 rushing touchdowns placed third, behind only LeGarrette Blount (18) and David Johnson (16).
Despite the accolades, Elliott knows he can improve in Year 2.
“I just want to work on being a more dominant, second-level runner,” Elliott said Monday at a charity home run derby, via the team’s official website. “I think a couple of times last year I could’ve been more elusive when I got to the second level. I just want to focus on altering my runs.”
Zeke’s analysis speaks to the one argument critics made during his spectacular rookie season: The idea that anyone could succeed behind the Cowboys‘ offensive line.
It wasn’t as if Elliott was trash on the second level. He gained 938 yards after contact, 57.7 percent of his total yardage, per Pro Football Focus, averaging 2.9 yards per carry after being hit.
Yes, Elliott got to the second-level cleaner than any other back last year thanks to the best offensive line in football, but lesser backs without Zeke’s vision, cutting ability, burst, speed and power wouldn’t have made as much out of those blocks.
Elliott believes he can be even better in 2017.