IRVING, Texas -- The pretense of Darren McFadden still holding the starting running back job and fourth overall pick Ezekiel Elliott having to earn his way is officially over.
That happened when McFadden fell during Memorial Day weekend and fractured an elbow.
The Cowboys found it was broken during a physical before the mandatory minicamp on Monday. McFadden will be out at least two months and should back at some point in the middle of the training camp.
What it means for Elliott is he's no longer splitting carries with the first team. He was going to be the starter when the seasoned opened anyway. Now he's getting all the snaps with the first team and working with quarterback Tony Romo.
"It just means more reps with the first team, but you hate seeing one of your guys go down," Elliott said. "You hate to see one of your warriors wounded. But he's going to be around a lot. He's going to get back as soon as possible."
McFadden and Elliott split the first-team reps through most of the offseason. Thus, the job, for all intents and purposes, now belongs to Elliott, with McFadden's injury putting Elliott on the fast track.
"I think it's going to be real big for him, really beneficial, because now he's forced to go in and do it," Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown said. "He's forced to go in there to perform and perform at a high level. He can't rest on his leader maybe helping him a little bit. He has to rest on himself. So it's going to be a good thing."
Elliott still is learning the offense, but he is picking it up quickly.
"Obviously, the more reps he gets, the slower it will become," Brown said. "With Darren missing some time, his learning curve will accelerate and it'll slow down real slow now because he has to go out there and do it every snap. It's going to be a positive for him."
Elliott rushed for 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns in his three-year career at Ohio State. The Cowboys picked him fourth overall because he is a three-down back with blocking skills and receiving skills to match his running ability.
Elliott has been everything the Cowboys hoped for and more. They were going to lean on Elliott and now that just starts earlier.
"I would hate to overstate anything at this point," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "But he is a full-package running back. There is really not a time I would feel uncomfortable with him being the game right now, which is unusual for a rookie. Over my years, I have had some really good running backs.
"But there were certain areas of the game where you would say if we do this that is not his cup of tea. But I think Zeke is well rounded. I don't think there is ever a down or distance or situation where he can't carry the load. Obviously, we have other guys who are going to do it, but we will lean heavily on this young kid."