With the contract and hold out saga with Ezekiel Elliott continuing, rookie Running Back Tony Pollard got the start on Saturday as the Dallas Cowboys faced off against the San Francisco 49ers in week one of the preseason. There were few players that Cowboys Nation was as excited to see in action than Pollard and in his preseason debut, he had a very solid effort totaling 16 yards on four carries and picked up a first down on the ground.
On his four carries, Pollard gained 11 yards after contact, averaging 2.75 yards after contact per carry. Obviously, four carries is a limited sample size, but he should feel really good about the work that he put in. He ran with patience, vision, initiated contact and made good decisions.
Let's take a look at his day.
On the first play from scrimmage for the Dallas Cowboys, to the surprise of no one, they decided to run the ball. Though we may be tired of seeing first down runs, it was probably a wise decision to get their rookie playmaker involved early to shake off any nerves that he might have brought to his first professional football game.
With the Dallas Cowboys in 11-personnel with the tight end and slot wide receiver to the left side, the call goes to the weakside. The 49ers' left defensive end seals the edge quickly and Tony Pollard has to cut back against the grain, but his vision and patience allow him to get find a nice hole left of Center Travis Frederick. Tyron Smith crashes inside and is able to seal off the 49ers 3-technique defensive tackle as Connor Williams and Zack Martin get to the linebackers at the second level. After the initial cut, back, Pollard finds his crease and makes a quick move into the hole to pick up six yards on his first carry.
After the initial contact, he's able to drive the defender for at least a yard, which is an encouraging sign with questions about his size to play the running back position.
On Pollard's second carry, the Cowboys are in 12 personnel with two tight ends to the right and a tight stack of the wide receivers to the left. The 49ers initially stymie the Dallas Cowboys offensive line, but after a brief moment, the Cowboys are able to get some push against their counterparts. Pollard doesn't see anything right away but is clean in the backfield and is able to use patience to wait for something to open up.
It's not a great run, as it picks up only three yards, but it's solid and leaves the Cowboys with a manageable 2nd and 7.
3rd and 2 with the Dallas Cowboys in shotgun and a balanced 11-personnel look with the tight end to the right side. On the snap, Dak Prescott gives the ball to Tony Pollard but shows a read-option look. As he fakes the quarterback run, Prescott causes the blitzing safety to hesitate in his pursuit of Tony Pollard, which allows Pollard to get upfield quickly and avoid the blitzer's tackle.
The Dallas Cowboys interior doesn't get much movement and Pollard has to cut back against the flow of the play behind a nice double team by La'el Collins and Blake Jarwin. They take care of the slanting defensive end and Pollard is able to pick up four yards for the first down.
On his final carry of the night, the Dallas Cowboys are in 22 personnel (two running backs, two wide receivers, and one tight end). The point of attack is running left, and Jarwin forces the left defensive end upfield allowing Pollard a cut back lane, which he wisely chooses as there isn't much going to the play side and the offensive line isn't able to execute any second-level blocks.
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Tony Pollard may not have had any explosive runs for 20 or more yards in this contest, but it was a solid performance in his first outing against NFL competition. More experience and exposure to the game speed will help him to get more comfortable running at this level.
What Pollard did show was good vision, quick processing, decision making, and a burst to get through the hole and pick up the yards that were available. He also showed a willingness to take on contact and lower the shoulder to attempt to get extra yards. There's still work to be done, but it was an encouraging performance in his first preseason game.
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?
Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?
Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.
Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.
Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.
Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.
Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.
An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.
Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.
No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.
But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
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