Elliott had 354 touches in 2016.
He’s a hard worker, Linehan said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. He’s really been putting a lot of time and emphasis into working on his game. . . . He knows he still has a lot ahead of him to prove.
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But Jones’ enthusiasm for his scheme, and Manziel’s fit in it, glosses over the more fundamental challenges of this transition. People I spoke with last week reinforced what others said during a trip to Hamilton in 2016: American visions of Manziel mirroring the success of Doug Flutie, another Heisman Trophy winner who moved north to find success, are outdated. Rather than scramble madly from wide sideline to sideline, successful CFL quarterbacks must now throw accurately and efficiently from the pocket, above all else.
If anything, the league’s three-down structure discourages quarterbacks from taking chances on unscripted runs or off-schedule throws. Lost yardage on first down, or even a minimal gain, leads to the NFL equivalent of third-and-long, effectively quashing drives. Historically, according to league data, CFL teams convert first downs on second-and-10 or longer between 12 and 14 percent of the time. In 2017, they converted 35.9 percent on plays of second-and-7 or longer.
Like so many others, Walker believes Bryant has plenty left in the tank.
I see him in my type of situation, you know, an older vet guy, Walker said. And I’m able to play at a high level, so I’m still sure he’s able to play at a high level. People have got to remember, it’s football. Some years you’re going to have bad years, some years you’re going to have good years. And, you know, they’ve got to look at the better years he had than him having one bad year.
But here’s the thing. Bryant didn’t have one bad year. He’s had three straight seasons that don’t reflect No. 1 receiver performance, all of which came after he signed his long-term deal in Dallas. His subpar effort in 2015 resulted from injury. In 2016, he played in 13 games and generated fewer than 800 yards. Last year, his total numbers were up, but per-catch average plunged from 15.9 yards to 12.1.
So it’s unclear whether he can still perform at a high level. And it’s unclear whether he’d be happy with the third spot on a depth chart. And it’s unclear whether he’d be able to translate motivation into production.