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What Ezekiel Elliott can bring to the New England Patriots

Elliott, the three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing leader, joins an offense with no other option but to succeed. PIC: AP/Jeffrey Phelps

Last week, the Patriots kicked off the late-offseason (or maybe early-preseason at this point?) running back moves, signing former Cowboys standout Ezekiel Elliott to a one-year, $3 million contract. Yes, Elliott is coming off a down year in Dallas, but he still has the potential to be a productive player in the NFL, as the Pats have now added a three-time Pro Bowl running back to their backfield.

It was trendy to diminish the running back position this offseason, judging by the plenty of drama in the RB community including their perceived underpayment across the industry. Elliott, who was released by the Cowboys in the offseason, saved Jerry Jones a measly $11 million.

Elliott has the reputation of being a power running back; a physical runner who can break tackles and create yardage after contact. He is also a solid receiver out of the backfield, which will give the Patriots more options in their new-look offensive scheme that yearns for credibility this season after two down years with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge at the helm.

In his seven seasons with the Cowboys, Elliott rushed for 8,262 yards and 68 touchdowns. He led the league in rushing in 2016 and 2018.

"I think if you look at my play style and the culture of this team, it's a good match," Elliott told the media on Wednesday. "I think I'm a good fit."

The Patriots' running game has been inconsistent in recent years. They have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Sony Michel in 2019. Mix in a platoon of Damien Harris, James White, Rex Burkhead, and other occasional one-game-wonders, and it's fair to say the RB room in New England has been mediocre at best over the past few seasons. Patriots fans hope that Elliott's signing changes that this season.

Here are some specific elements that Zeke Elliott could bring to the Patriots' running back room this year:

Power: Elliott is a physical runner who can break tackles and create yardage after contact. His 6-foot-1, 225 pound-frame is more typical of the "power" running back style, and he's been commended for his lower body strength. He is also very fast, with a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time turning heads upon his entrance to the NFL. Elliott's power will be a valuable asset in the Patriots' running game, which has been lacking in power in recent years. Most recently, Pats fans will point to LeGarrette Blount as the most exemplary power running back they've had in recent years, but Elliott - at least, on paper - figures to be a more valuable asset than Blount had ever been.

Production: Elliott has a proven track record of production in the NFL. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards in four of his seven seasons, and rushed for 12 or more touchdowns in 4 seasons as well. Elliott's production will be a welcome addition to the Patriots' offense, who seemingly have struck out with reliability in the RB room over the past few years. Damien Harris, once identified as the man that would turn the fortunes around, couldn't stay healthy and found greener pastures in Buffalo. James White retired. Rex Burkhead never became the Danny Woodhead they were really looking for, and tried for a change of scenery in Houston. JJ Taylor, Kevin Harris, and Brandon Bolden were never going to be the answers. Neither was Sony Michel, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, or Dion get the point here? Experts are bullish on second-year Rhamondre Stevenson, but he wasn't going to be enough. A proven veteran figures to help in that department regardless of how many snaps he's getting.

Versatility: Elliott is a versatile runner who can also catch passes out of the backfield. He has 363 career receptions for 2,327 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns. Keep in mind, the Pats took plenty of offensive gambles in the past few years, and very few of them paid off; Jonnu Smith was abysmal at tight end, they never really had a WR1 (sorry, Jakobi Meyers), and we won't even get into who was calling their plays. Now, with Bill O'Brien at the helm of the Pats' offense and a few more toys in Mike Gesicki, Juju Smith Schuster, and offensive line help, it'll be easier for Mac Jones to get more comfortable...or so we hope. Elliott's versatility will (hopefully) give Jones more options in their offense, and make it more difficult for defenses to defend them, as has been the problem for the past couple of years. The Patriots can use Elliott as a traditional running back, but they can also use him as a receiver or a pass-blocker, all of which he has shown some level of expertise in over the years. He may also be a crucial area of the goal-line offense, which Mike Reiss reported today.

Yes, the RB position is in crisis, and maybe he wasn't their first choice. But at the end of the day, Ezekiel Elliott is a talented running back who has the potential to be a major asset to the Patriots this season. If he can stay healthy and motivated, he could help the Patriots to improve their running game and become more balanced on offense - both crucial needs for the Pats to satisfy in 2023.


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