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Patriots Player Profile: Ezekiel Elliott

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The Patriots dropped to 2-10 on the 2023 season after getting shutout by the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, losing 6-0 in a waterlogged Gillette Stadium. As if things could not get any worse, starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson left the game early with a high ankle sprain. It appears that it is almost certain that Stevenson will miss the upcoming Thursday night matchup against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. With Ezekiel Elliott being the only other active running back, it looks like he will get a workload similar to his early days in Dallas.

Many were scratching their heads back in September when it was revealed that New England was only keeping two active running backs on the roster in Stevenson and Elliott, and now that concern has come to fruition. Stevenson has had a down year compared to his previous season, rushing for just 619 yards along with four touchdowns through 12 games, and Elliott has picked up some of the slack, being a comparable number two. So far this season, Elliott has put up 429 yards and two touchdowns on the ground off 112 carries, averaging 3.8 yards per carry, as well as hauling in 24 receptions for 154 yards.

Elliott came to the Patriots back in August on a one-year $6 million deal after having his starting job in Dallas stolen by Tony Pollard. Before Pollard took over, Elliott proved himself to be a top-end franchise running back from the jump. In his 2016 rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys, “Zeke” rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry, doing his classic “feed me” celebration all along the way.

As a fourth overall pick out of Ohio State, Elliott certainly came as advertised. With the Cowboys, Elliott had four seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing (2016,2018, 2019, & 2021).

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Before getting drafted by the Cowboys, Elliott was a four-star high school recruit out of John Burroughs School in Ladue, Missouri. Elliott was a three-sport athlete at John Burroughs, playing basketball and running track and field along with football.

On the football field, Elliott put up record-breaking numbers in his last two seasons, with 1,802 yards on the ground paired with 34 touchdowns as well as catching 23 passes for 401 yards and six touchdowns in his junior season. Elliott’s performance his junior year earned him St. Louis Dispatch Offensive Player of the year. Elliott followed up his impressive junior season with an even more explosive senior season.

As a senior, Elliott would have 3,061 all-purpose yards and 50 total touchdowns, earning him the rank of number nine for high school running backs in the country, he would also earn Gatorade track athlete of the year for the state of Missouri.

Despite pressure from his family to go to his parents’ Alma mater in the University of Missouri, where his father Stacy played linebacker for the Tigers, Elliott ultimately decided to commit to Ohio State, where he would have a historic career.

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As a true freshman at Ohio State, Elliott earned his keep on special teams as a gunner, while he played behind future NFL running back Carlos Hyde. At running back in his freshman season, Elliott rushed for 262 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Elliott became the starting running back for the Buckeyes in his sophomore season with Hyde departing for the NFL, and he had an accomplished season.

In his 2014 sophomore season, Elliott rushed for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards a carry. In the receiving game, Elliott caught 28 balls for 220 yards. Elliott rushed for over 100 yards six different times in the 2014 season, as well as rushing for 220 yards and two touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship game, against the Wisconsin Badgers. The win against the Badgers that Elliott carried the Buckeyes to qualified them for the first ever college football playoff.

Elliott went on a postseason tear, in the 2015 Sugar Bowl, he rushed for 230 yards and an 85-yard touchdown run to seal the win over number one Alabama, earning offensive player of the game. Elliott would go on to cap off Ohio State’s Championship season by putting up 246 yards on the ground as well as scoring four touchdowns on 36 carries against the Oregon Ducks in the Championship. The running back was again presented the honor of offensive MVP.

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In Elliott’s junior year, which would prove to be his last season with the Buckeyes, with him declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft, he would again have a historic season, rushing for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards per carry, he also caught 27 passes for 206 yards.

Elliott hit the ground running in his 2015 season, rushing for over 100 yards in ten straight wins, including a 274-yard performance against Indiana. Elliott seemed to end the season just as well as he started, rushing for 149 yards and four touchdowns in a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

Despite the success on the field, life was not all fun and games in college for Elliott, with him having to mourn the loss of a good friend and teammate in Kosta Karageorge during his sophomore season.

Karageorge was a walk-on defensive end for the Buckeyes who went missing on Thanksgiving day in 2014, and unfortunately, he ended his own life and was found on November 30th, 2014, he was just 22 years old. The death of Karageorge caused some controversy over undiagnosed CTE caused by concussions from football, with conflicting findings in tests of his brain. Karageorge was said to have at least 15 concussions in his life. Elliott spoke on the loss of his friend in an interview with ESPN.

"My heart just dropped, it was just horrible for all of us. For me personally, that was my first time losing someone that I was very close with," said Elliott.

In his three-year career with the Buckeyes, Elliott earned honors such as Chicago Tribune Silver Football (2015), Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year (2015), Second-Team All-American (2015), First-Team All-Big Ten (2015), and the James E. Sullivan Award (2014).

Elliott tested well at the NFL combine, recording an impressive overall score of 92, along with a forty time of 4.47 seconds. The Ohio State product's numbers in college paired with his combine results would earn him the fourth overall selection by Dallas. Elliott would go on to sign a four-year contract with Dallas worth $24.9 million, with a signing bonus worth over $16 million. Elliott would use the money from his rookie contract to buy his parents a new house.

So far in his eight-year NFL career, Elliott has earned accolades such as First-Team All-Pro (2016), Second-Team All-Pro (2018), Three-time Pro Bowler (2016,2018, 2019), PFWA All-Rookie Team (2016), and two-time rushing yards leader (2016 and 2018).

Elliott has proven himself to be a legitimate and dynamic three-down back with the ability to catch the ball. Elliott has always ran with an angry, rumbling style with an ability to break tackles as well as make people miss. With his 6'0'' 225 pound frame, Zeke is a force to be reckoned with. Although he may not be close to what he was in 2016, Elliott has shown that he can still be a more than serviceable back in this league.

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With a storied football career with many accomplishments and obvious experience, it would make sense for the Patriots to lean heavily on the veteran running back against the Steelers on a Thursday night.

It is still up in the air whether New England will upgrade a practice squad running back to split snaps with Elliott, or if they will roll with special teamer Ty Montgomery, who has experience at both running back and receiver. It could be possible that Elliott might just have to be the only active running back. Either way, expect to see a lot of Elliott against the Steelers in a game where both passing attacks are struggling.

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