Ezekiel Elliott's contract makes him the second-highest paid running back in the NFL, tied with Alvin Kamara and behind only Christian McCaffrey. However, his usage through two weeks of the 2021 season suggests he's not that high on the rankings.
Through two weeks, Zeke has handled just 27 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. The tote total ranks him tied for 16th with Clyde Edwards-Helaire of Kansas City and Broncos rookie Javonte Williams.
Elliott has heard the critics that he's no longer a workhorse back. He cares nil.
"You hear it, but what really matters is what's going on in this building. They're not the ones signing the checks, they're not the ones sending the wires, so I don't think it matters," Elliott said laughing Thursday, per the team's official website.
The issue isn't that Zeke has looked bad. He's looked better than last season, slimmed down, and able to make people miss in the hole. It isn't his fault the Cowboys faced one of the best run defenses in Tampa Bay in Week 1.
The biggest reason Elliott's carry total is down is his backfield-mate Tony Pollard has exploded to open the campaign. Pollard, who Gil Brandt once compared to Lenny Moore, is a highlight reel waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. The third-year pro is averaging 7.7 yards per carry, most among RBs through two games. He's generated 123 yards on just 16 carries with a TD.
Zeke isn't jealous of the attention Pollard is garnering.
"It's a brotherhood. Every week we've all got the same goal, the same common goal and that's to go win football games. However we've got to do that, that's what we're going to have to do," Elliott said. "I'm happy to see Tony. I see the work he puts in. He's one of the hardest workers on the team and he's very talented. He deserves to go out there and play well."
The Cowboys' popularity and Zeke's contract have thrust a spotlight on the timeshare in Dallas. You don't hear the same conversations about Nick Chubb seeing just 26 carries through two games.
Contract discussions are meaningful in the slow summer months, but when games start, the best players should play regardless of how much they're paid -- that's a sunk cost at this point. Pollard has shown he deserves more touches as the season goes. His dual-threat ability forces defenses into a predicament. It won't be a surprise if offensive coordinator Kellen Moore finds a way to get both backs on the field together more in the coming weeks.
Zeke isn't fretting carries because he knows he's getting his guaranteed money this year and next ($12.4 million guaranteed in 2022). If the Cowboys tandem helps pull them past the Eagles Monday night and into eventually the playoffs, he'll care even less about how the totes are divided.