Will the Cowboys Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott become the NFL’s greatest rookie backfield?
Look at the standings in the NFL after Week #9 and you see a team that each year seems to be the best team in the AFC (New England) and a team that has yearly had a lot of promise but has seen those promises largely unfulfilled over the past several seasons (the Cowboys). Both teams sit at 7-1 and are tied for the best record in the league, and have the best record in their respective conference.
A major reason for Dallas’ success this year seems to have had its beginning at the 2016 NFL Draft when they chose running back Ezekiel Elliot with the fourth overall pick. But another choice, that of quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round with the 135th overall pick, will probably go down as a selection that was just as important. A pre-season injury to veteran Dallas QB Tony Romo set the wheels in motion for Prescott to eventually earn the starting job and the Cowboys have not looked back.
Elliott has gained 891 yards in his first eight games and Prescott has passed for 2,020 yards. That puts Elliott on pace to rush for just under 1,800 yards in the season, and places Prescott on a pace to throw for over 4,000 yards.
For Prescott, he could become the 16th rookie QB in history to pass for over 3,000 yards in a season. If he was to stay on pace and go over 4,000, he would become only the fourth rookie QB to reach the 4,000-yards passing mark. The three with over 4,000 yards passing as a rookie:
Andrew Luck, 2012, Indianapolis, 4,374
Cam Newton, 2011, Carolina, 4,051
Jameis Winston, 2015, Tampa Bay, 4,042
If Elliott stays on pace, he could challenge the rookie record for most rushing yards in a season, 1,808, held by Eric Dickerson with the Rams in 1983. If Elliott goes over the 1,500-yards rushing mark, he would become only the seventh rookie RB in history to reach 1,500 yards rushing in their first season. The six rookie running backs with 1,500 rushing yards in a season:
Eric Dickerson, 1983, Rams, 1,808
George Rogers, 1981, New Orleans, 1,674
Alfred Morris, 2012, Washington, 1,613
Ottis Anderson, 1979, St. Louis, 1,605
Edgerrin James, 1999, Indianapolis, 1,553
Clinton Portis, 2002, Denver, 1,508
What Prescott and Elliott are accomplishing together this season, however, could be historic. Consider this: Only once in NFL history has a team had a rookie QB throw for over 3,000 and a running back gain 1,500 yards rushing in the same season. That happened in 2012 when Washington Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin had 3,200 yards passing and ’Skins rookie running back Alfred Morris had 1,613 yards rushing that same season. Prescott and Elliott, if they stay healthy, could challenge these two. Would that make them the greatest rookie backfield in league history? I’ll let you decided.
Right now, there has been only two rookie tandems (QB and RB) that have reached 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing in the same campaign. They are:
Washington, 2012: Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin
Cleveland, 2012: Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden
Of course, if you look at the rookie season of Cam Newton in 2011, he passed for 4,051 yards and rushed for 706 that season, so he reached the two numbers by himself, a feat that was duplicated the following season when Robert Griffin passed for 3,200 yards and rushed for 815 that same season.
Keep an eye on the Cowboys, especially if good health and success continues… Prescott and Elliott could accomplish something pretty rare.