When the Dallas Cowboys selected Running Back Tony Pollard in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, there were some mixed emotions. Some were unsure of what his role would be in this offense since he wasn't asked to carry the football a whole lot at Memphis. Others saw the potential Swiss Army Knife he could be if given the opportunity.
Interestingly, the Cowboys doubled-down in the draft by selecting Mike Weber. At the time it was thought that Weber would become the back up to starter Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard would be used more in a pass catching role and be the full-time kick returner.
Given the roster needs when the Dallas Cowboys cut to 53, they didn't really have a place for three running backs in the roster and Pollard more than earned his way with a stellar preseason with Ezekiel Elliott holding out for a major pay day. That left Pollard as the primary back up to Elliott when the Cowboys opened the season week one against the New York Giants.
Even though Elliott's return to the team in week one signifies a role reduction, because the Cowboys were blowing teams out the first three weeks of the season, Pollard averaged 10 carries a game. He had 13 each against the Giants and the Miami Dolphins and went over the century mark in that week three win over Miami.
After getting off to a hot start to his NFL career though, the Cowboys were very inconsistent in his workload.
After the week three win, Pollard topped five carries just three more times over the final 13 games and 10 carries just twice more. Each of those games with more than five carries game in blow out wins.
On the season, Pollard ran for 455 yards on 86 carries averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scored two rushing touchdowns. Pollard has two 100-yard games on the season and was Pro Football Focus' third-highest graded running back among players with at least 60 carries this season.
As a receiver, Tony Pollard caught 15 of 20 targets for 107 yards (7.1 yards per reception), and a touchdown.
Tony Pollard is a dynamic weapon who was used a lot as a receiver at Memphis. This season, the Cowboys coaching staff seemed content to keep him in a traditional running back role, which he handled quite well when given the opportunity. Unfortunately, the coaching staff didn't try to get him more involved unless the game was out of reach. He's one of those spark plug players that can energize the whole team with a big run, the same way Ezekiel Elliott does when lowering his shoulder and making a big hit.
Whoever takes over as the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys needs to make it an emphasis for themselves or the offensive coordinator to make sure Tony Pollard is getting a lot of looks. He's too electric of a player to not give the ball to 8-10 times a game.
Though Ezekiel Elliott is your lead running back and a really good receiver in his own right, Pollard's presence allows the Cowboys to get more creative. Especially if they don't resign Randall Cobb, the Cowboys should look to mix Pollard into the slot role, even splitting him out wide to see if he can get a linebacker matched up with him.
Pollard's presence in the offense is one of the reasons a hire like Urban Meyer or Lincoln Riley could make sense. They have a history of getting dynamic running backs and receivers involved in the offense in multiple ways.
Going into meetings with potential head coaching candidates, especially the offensive minded ones, one of my questions for them would be, “how do you envision incorporating Tony Pollard?”
He's just too good to not get more involved than he was in his rookie season. For the offense to take another step forward. They have to get more creative and more free with how they deploy their offensive weapons.
Tony Pollard's ability to play as both a wide receiver and running back makes him a dangerous mismatch piece that the next head coach shouldn't be shy about putting to work.