ARLINGTON – “Average.” It’s a dirty word in the NFL, because in this parity-based league, two-thirds of the teams will end up within two games of .500 … and therefore, “average” is nothing. And that’s where Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott is today.
“I think I was average,” said Zeke, a focal point of Dallas’ season-opening 20-19 home loss to the Giants yesterday afternoon. “Average. That’s not why I was brought here to be average, so we’ve got a lot of work to get done. A lot to work on.”
Elliott, the fourth-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, was supposed to be a reason Dallas might survive the temporary injury loss of Tony Romo. But Romo rookie replacement, Dak Prescott, joining Zeke behind the top offensive line in the game was supposed to do that too. And a healthy Dez Bryant was going to put last year’s 4-12 record behind them, too. And a “smartly-coached” team under Jason Garrett was a supposed strength as well.
– Dak’s “success” was relative; he’s being given brownie points simply because the fourth-round rookie survived it.
– Dez caught one ball. One. Ball.
– The offense stalled often enough to demand Dan Bailey perform field-goal miracles.
– Terrance Williams killed Dallas’ chance at game’s end when he brained-cramped, failing to get out of bounds in time to allow the Cowboys to attempt yet another long field goal.
On the positive side Dallas’ undermanned defense actually notched sacks and an interception. But still, in the end? “Average.”
“You know, it’s the NFL,” said Elliott, trying to be philosophical about his debut. “You can’t win every game, so I’ve just got to get back to work and get better next week.”
Elliott scored a TD but only totaled 51 rushing yards on 20 carries for a paltry 2.6 yards-per-carry average. “I was hoping to have a better day, for sure,” Elliott said. “The type of guy I am, the type of competitor I am, I’m a little bit disappointed. But you’ve got to start somewhere. All we can do is get better from here.”
That was the overriding theme in the Sunday night losing locker room at AT&T Stadium, from defensive leader Sean Lee expressing support for Williams despite his gaffe, to Cole Beasley (who like Bryant could’ve had a TD catch but didn’t) trying to boost Prescott.
“It’s only up from here,” Beasley told the QB. “It’s not gonna get any worse. It’s gonna get better.”
For Dak and his rookie roommate Zeke, that sounds promising. But this is the NFL. It’s not always “better.” It’s not always “worse.” It’s quite often “average,” which in a sense is nothing at all.