Cowboys, Elliott Tied for 2nd-Most RB Dropped Passes in 2020

Cowboys, Elliott Tied for 2nd-Most RB Dropped Passes in 2020


Ezekiel Elliott

There are many fine qualities to Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott, a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFL rushing champ, and the richest running back in league history.

His hands? Not so much.

As The Athletic’s Greg Auman highlighted, the Cowboys tied for second in 2020 with the most dropped passes (12) by their RBs, trailing only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17). Dallas also posted the eighth-lowest RB catch rate (.721) among all teams.

And Elliott — rather than prized backup Tony Pollard — is the culprit, charged with eight drops on 71 receiving targets. Pollard was responsible for four drops across 40 targets.

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Butterfingers Zeke

Drops are bad, but fumbles are infinitely worse. One of the biggest knocks on Elliott, and a little-known fact outside of DFW, is his sheer inability to secure the football.

CBS Sports reported last month that Zeke leads all NFL RBs by a wide margin with three seasons of five-plus fumbles since 2016, his rookie campaign. For context: Eight different RBs have logged one such season over that span.

You can count on a single finger how many times Elliott’s posted fewer than three fumbles in a given year amid his tenure in the silver and blue; that occurred during his suspension-ruined 2017 (1 fumble). The issue peaked the following season with six, dropped significantly in 2019 (3), and skyrocketed again in 2020 (6).

Elliott lost four fumbles across a six-week period last season, culminating in his mid-October benching during a nationally televised defeat to Arizona. He let slip through his fingers yet another ball in a Thanksgiving blowout loss to Washington, the final miscue punctuating a career-worst showing for the Cowboys’ $90 million investment.

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Emmitt to the Defense

Asked earlier this offseason about Elliott’s apparent struggles, Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith not only excused the poor play — he issued a best-yet-to-come prediction for the now-sixth-year pro.

“I think with Ezekiel Elliott, many people forget that Zeke had COVID-19 before the season even got started. And no one knows what COVID-19 will do to your body until you go through it,” Smith said in February, via Inside The Star. “If you look at his body and play through the first five-six weeks of the season, his body structure, his weight looked a little bit different than the latter part of the season. Physically you just look at him, he looks a lot leaner in the latter part of the season than he did in the first part of the season. Now in the first part of the season, obviously he had some fumbling issues. Granted, they get paid on the other side of the ball like we do, not to make any excuses, but I do believe that Zeke will be better for what he had gone through this year. And he will be prepared and probably start to take care of himself differently for what he has gone through this year. And I think with Tony Pollard, there’s a great one-two punch.”

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL