Ezekiel Elliott endured one of his worst pro seasons for the Cowboys in 2021. He still totaled 1,002 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, but averaged a career-low 58.9 yards per game and only 4.2 yards per carry, third-lowest mark . of his career
With that being said, it sounds like there was a reason Elliott had his share of struggles this year. He just couldn’t recover while playing due to injury.
Elliott revealed after the Cowboys’ 231-17 season-ending loss to the 49ers that he played with a partially torn ACL during the season. He couldn’t make the injury worse, so he chose to work through it.
“I won’t need a procedure (in the offseason),” Elliott told reporters after the game, according to Cowboys official website. “It was an injury that was not going to get worse, but it was going to take time.”
Elliott suffered the injury in Week 4 and from then on frequently ended the week on the Cowboys’ injury report. Still, he managed to suit up for all 18 Dalas games this year, including their 23-17 loss to the 49ers, during which he rushed for just 31 yards on 12 carries.
However, Elliott was clearly hampered by the injury. He averaged just 3.7 yards per carry after Week 4, so despite playing in all 17 games, he wasn’t treated like the same kind of workhorse he was in previous seasons.
|Statistics||Elliott’s pre-injury||Elliott after injury|
|carry per game||sixteen||13.2|
|yards per game||85.5||49.4|
It’s also why the Cowboys used Tony Pollard more during the 2021 NFL season than in previous years. Elliott was still the primary running back — he played 65.9 percent of Dallas’ snaps while Pollard played 30.5 percent of them — but Pollard proved more efficient than Elliott as a dynamic threat in the game.
|Player||carries||running yards||Rush TD||yards per attempt||catches||receiving yards||Receive TD|
As such, it’s a little curious that Pollard hasn’t gotten a lot of touches against the 49ers, especially with Elliott coming back from that injury. Elliott was on the field more often than his counterpart and saw 13 total touches, while Pollard had six on offense.
That said, the Cowboys seem to trust Elliott more in pass protection, so maybe Pollard’s absence was related to the Cowboys running behind and wanting Elliott in the game to protect Jimmy Garoppolo.
Elliott, 26, will be looking to get back into shape during the 2022 NFL season, but first he’ll have to rehab his partially torn PCL. Recovery from injury, when mild, can take as little as 10 days. according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, if the ligament needs to be surgically repaired, the recovery timeline tends to take six to nine months.
For now, it looks like Elliott will be closer to the front of that recovery timeline. Either way, it doesn’t look like he’s in much danger of missing time during the 2022 NFL season, as a nine-month recovery would put him on track to return in mid-September if it comes to that.