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Will Ezekiel Elliott have an even bigger role in 2017?

Can Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott be an even larger part of Dallas' offense in 2017?

According to, that is the hope of team owner Jerry Jones. Jones is guessing his star running back will be more involved in the passing game after Elliott had just 363 receiving yards in 2016, though it wasn't for a lack of pass catching skills. Elliott was only thrown the ball 39 times and caught 32 of those. The 82.1 percent catch rate is better than any of Le'Veon Bell's numbers over a full season, though Bell gets more than double the amount of balls thrown his way.

"He really is problematic for defenses in the passing game, and certainly every time we can get him the ball, I feel good about it," Jones said.

This might be pie-in-the-sky thinking for Jones, unfortunately. Elliott accounted for more than one third of Dallas' 6,027 offensive yards last year and nearly 25 percent of its total points. The push to have him become Bell or Cardinals running back David Johnson is admirable, though the real focus should be getting Elliott anywhere close to his production from 2016.

Dallas lost some key members of its offensive line this offseason, and while the core of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick remains, the team will need to shift La'el Collins to right tackle and move Jonathan Cooper to left guard. Sustaining those changes and building on Elliott's success would be quite impressive, though maybe some leaks up front would contribute to more receptions for Elliott as a safety valve out of the backfield.

Dak Prescott targeted his top three receivers -- Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten -- almost identically last season (98, 96, 95 targets, respectively) -- so Jones will have to ask himself where these extra touches are coming from. Is it wise to rob Bryant of more opportunities just to get Elliott more involved?

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