There are many things that Cowboys fans clamor for. But if there’s one thing they gripe about more than most, it’s Dallas’ use of its running backs.
Ezekiel Elliott is currently the Cowboys’ No. 1 running back, with backup Tony Pollard behind him since he was drafted in 2019. Whether you agree Pollard should start over him or not, it’s clear he needs to play more. Pollard has exceptional talent, but is underappreciated by head coach Mike McCarthy and his offensive staff.
With Dallas desperately needing more playmakers on offense after the departures of guys like Amari Cooper, Pollard can fill that role. Here are three ways the Cowboys can utilize Pollard more in the 2022 season:
1. Making him the full-time return man
Pollard can be that guy. He’s already explosive in the kick return game, averaging 28.8 yards a return and taking a kickoff for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders last Thanksgiving. Given his athleticism and quickness, it’s hard to argue against Pollard being Dallas’ No. 1 kick returner and punt returner for 2022.
TONY POLLARD 100-YARD KICKOFF RETURN TD
Lamb is the only other worthy candidate for the punt returner role, but I don’t see Dallas risking its potential star receiver on special teams. The risk for Pollard isn’t as considerable, and the reward is way more valuable.
2. Involve him more in the passing game
Pollard was targeted 44 times as a receiver last season. That’s a modest amount, but it didn’t even rank top 10 amongst running backs.
That number needs to increase. Pollard’s agility and quickness can make him a useful factor in the passing game. Remember when screens to Elliott used to go for significant yardage? That can happen with Pollard in 2022 and beyond.
Pollard averaged 8.6 yards per catch last season, a ridiculous number for a running back. His receiving ability needs to be utilized more, and it can add a brand-new element to the Cowboys’ offense.
3. Make Pollard the new RB1
The more I think about this idea, the more it makes sense. Pollard had 5.5 yards per carry last season, just as many as the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor and the Browns’ Nick Chubb.
He also ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing yards despite ranking 41st in carries and received a 90.2 rushing grade from Pro Football Focus. Pollard also averaged a 10+ yard run every 7.6 carries, further proving his explosiveness.
Pollard beats Elliott in almost every statistical category. From yards after carry, to yards after contact, to broken tackles (yes, really), it’s clear that Pollard is the superior running back. He’s versatile, has a greater burst and brings more to the table.
Tony Pollard Touchdown!
— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) December 3, 2021
There’s still some value in having Elliott as part of the game plan, but Pollard needs to be included more. Either he needs to become the new starting running back or have equal carries to Elliott. This will not only make the Cowboys a better running team, but it will make their offense more dynamic.
With more reps and carries, Pollard is a potential superstar. He can only maximize his potential if he’s incorporated more into the offense.