Was there a tear in Jerry Jones' eye when the Cowboys owner was talking about former running back Ezekiel Elliott? Alas, no, it was just an illusion.
Jones spoke briefly about the effect of Elliott's absence in the Cowboys offense on Wednesday, commenting on Zeke's "unique physicalness" that can be especially useful on short yardage downs. However, Jones stopped short of saying that the Cowboys missed Elliott in any way.
During Elliott's seven years in Dallas, he was often used as an end zone bulldozer capable of getting six points on the board with sheer determination and his powerful legs.
Standing in his place in 2023 is Tony Pollard, who boasts less power overall but has superior pass-catching abilities and an athletic shiftiness that allows him to break more tackles and rack up YAC numbers.
After releasing Elliott as a cap casualty this offseason, the Cowboys placed all their faith in Pollard as their new RB1 with backup rushers in Deuce Vaughn and Rico Dowdle. Pollard has run the rock at an efficient 4.3 yards per carry this season on a league-high 62 attempts; he's also added 12 catches for 48 yards.
Three games into the season, do the Cowboys regret letting Elliott go? Not at all, per Jones.
Jerry Jones praises Ezekiel Elliott's talents but has no regrets
The Athletic's Jon Machota asked Jones whether the Cowboys' red zone issues particularly in Week 3's loss to the Cardinals may have been a lingering effect of Elliott's absence. Jones confidently declared, "I do not think that physicalness from the running back is contributing to us not getting in the end zone."
The Cowboys were forced to settle for a field goal three times in Sunday's 28-16 loss to Arizona. Both Pollard and Dowdle recorded an average of 5.3 yards per carry that game but no rushing touchdowns; for some reason, the two backs got jammed up in Cardinals' territory, and Dak Prescott struggled to link up with his go-to targets in the end zone to cap off otherwise dominant offensive drives.
After Week 3's jarring loss, the Cowboys will face Elliott and the Patriots this upcoming Sunday in a matchup where Jerry Jones will be especially eager to prove that Dallas doesn't miss their former tailback one bit. In a rotational role behind Rhamondre Stevenson for the Patriots, Elliott has recorded 28 carries for 122 yards and six catches for 21 yards this season.
For a stubborn anti-sentimentalist like Jones, cutting Zeke back in March wasn't personal, it was just business. Getting a bounce-back win against the Pats will be strictly business, too.