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Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott tells critics to 'check the stats'

Ezekiel Elliott just wants a little respect around here.

Elliott took to Twitter on Thursday to voice his displeasure with how he's being viewed by media members in relation to his counterparts in the NFL. It began with a simple question: Why can't we all shine?

"There are a lot of great backs in this league but I don't understand why the media has to talk down on my game just to uplift other backs," Elliott wrote on Twitter. "We all are talented football players and can ball."

Elliott then pointed to the numbers -- we checked, they're good -- before channeling his inner Birdman.

"Check the stats," he advised. "Since I entered this league I have dominated year in, year out. Put some RESPECT on my name."

Elliott followed that suggestion by pivoting between rappers with his next tweet, which also recommended a use of math.

"Women lie. Men lie," Elliott wrote, quoting the 2009 Yo Gotti song of the same name. "The stats don't. Go do your homework."

Although he provided the basic stats for us in the above tweet, let's get into the numbers. Elliott averaged a career-low 84.8 rushing yards per game and 111.1 scrimmage yards per game in 2019. His 22.2 touches per game were also the worst in his career.

By those numbers, he did take a step back, but that's not the entire picture. Because Elliott set the bar so high for himself in his first three seasons (including two campaigns with at least 15 games played), his most recent stats fall short of expectation. The difference, though, is the expectation for him is astronomically high.

Consider this: Elliott led the league in rushing in two of his first three seasons. He averaged at least 95 rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons -- including his most recent campaign.

Elliott's elite play is almost old hat at this point, which is no fault of his own. The main reason we're seeing a difference in reputation is his team's overall performance, for which he's held perhaps disproportionately responsible.

After his holdout dragged into the final week before the regular season began, Elliott's Cowboys fell well short of expectations, missing the playoffs by failing to claim the throne of a very winnable NFC East. All of that drama was for nothing -- except a lucrative contract extension for Elliott -- in the eyes of the Dallas diehards who expect perennial postseason appearances.

The blame isn't to be placed on Elliott's shoulders. The running back registered his best Pro Football Focus grades of his career in both overall grade (77.2) and rushing grade (83.1) in 2019, marks that were better than those in either of his league-leading rushing seasons of 2016 and 2018. His 1,357 rushing yards were fourth-most in the NFL, and only Carolina's Christian McCaffrey had more scrimmage yards.

Elliott is still playing at an elite level. He's also got a ton of miles on him in a short amount of time. Elliott leads the NFL in touches (1,169), rushing yards (5,405) and scrimmage yards (7,024) since 2016, and ranks second only to Todd Gurley in rushing touchdowns (48) and scrimmage touchdowns (60) in that span. Since Elliott's arrival in 2016, the Cowboys have averaged 135.7 rushing yards per game, the third-best mark in the league.

By those marks, Elliott is one of the very best in the NFL. The problems lie elsewhere, and the stats indeed do not lie. If anything, Dallas fans should be encouraged by what appears to be fresh motivation for their stellar back. A division championship and a playoff win could go a long way toward ending any talk of disrespect.

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