Even with HBO cameras following the Dallas Cowboys everywhere, the two biggest question marks surrounding the team’s two biggest stars with the two biggest contracts remain mostly unanswered.

A strained muscle in the throwing shoulder for Dak Prescott — he of the injury-shortened 2020 and four-year, $160 million contract extension — means practices filled mostly with mental reps and perhaps no on-field action until the regular-season opener against Tampa Bay on Sept. 9.

“It’s a plan of caution,” head coach Mike McCarthy said.

There is a similar lack of clarity when it comes to the other pillar of the Cowboys' offense: running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Zeke’s issues may not be as pronounced as Prescott’s — how will he respond to the injury and a big money deal? — but the pressure to deliver a big season might actually be greater.

Elliott underperformed last season, his fifth in the league, as the Cowboys went 6-10. No one knows it more than him.

“I think the hardest part about last year is you feel like you let your teammates down,” Elliott said. “That hurts … Just having the year I had last year, you don’t need more motivation than that. I just know the type of player I am. I don’t think I showed that last year. I’ve got a lot to prove.”

In response, he dropped weight (from 228 to 218) in an effort to find old explosiveness and move into, perhaps, a more modern workload for a back. McCarthy said he might not run Zeke at all this preseason in an effort to preserve him. He hasn’t dressed in the Cowboys' first two exhibition games and won’t play in the fourth. Maybe he goes for a bit Saturday against the Houston Texans. Or maybe not.

So, at least when it comes to "Hard Knocks" footage, there has been a few Elliott runs during no-contact practices, a botched birthday present wrapping job and a lot of handing out sunflower seeds on the sideline. In other words, not much,

“He’s in much better shape this year,” McCarthy offered.

That much is clear. He looks lean. He looks fast. That McCarthy isn’t concerned should be a ray of positivity, not just about what Elliott might be capable of this season but how he’ll be used.

Elliott’s durability has been his calling card dating back to Ohio State. Whether in college or the NFL, coaches saw a man built like a small tank and they tried to ride him to victory — 28 carries, 30 carries, 33 carries, 36 even. This was a lead back. A throwback. A workhorse.