A six-game suspension from the NFL in 2017 cost Ezekiel Elliott a 1,000-yard season and the chance to defend his rushing crown.
With no such suspension looming in 2018 and the chance to play another 16-game season, listeners and readers of the Talk of Fame Network expect the lead back of the Dallas Cowboys to return to the top of the NFL’s rushing chart.
That was the subject of our poll last week – who will win the NFL rushing crown this season? Elliott received 40 percent of the vote to outdistance Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams at 28.3 percent. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell was next at 10 percent. Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt, the 2017 NFL rushing champion, received only five percent of the vote.
The NFL suspended Elliott those six games for violating its personal conduct policy, stemming from accusations of domestic abuse. He rushed for 983 yards and seven touchdowns in the 10 games he did play, which was a considerable falloff from the 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns he collected as a rookie in 2016.
But our voters expect business as usual from Elliott this season. He has rushed for 100 yards in half of his 26 career NFL games and the Cowboys have won 10 of those games. The former Ohio State All-America benefits from running behind an offensive line that features three perennial Pro Bowlers.
The three Talk of Fame Network hosts -- Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge -- agreed with the poll as all three cast their ballots for Elliott. The fact that the two top receivers on the Cowboys (Dez Bryant and Jason Witten) are gone also plays into the fact Elliott will be given every opportunity by the Dallas offense to win another rushing crown.
"He’s not missing six games this year," Judge said, "and the Cowboys will rely on a running game, now more than ever."
The Rams made Gurley the richest running back in NFL history this offseason with a four-year contract extension worth $60 million, including $45 million guaranteed. With two years left on his rookie deal, the Rams have locked up Gurley’s services for the next six seasons.
Based on his 2017 season, Gurley is worth every penny. He was the offensive catalyst that catapulted the Rams from a four-win team in 2016 to NFC West champion in 2017. He rushed for an NFC-leading 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns and also caught 64 passes for 788 yards and six more scores.