Tony Pollard had a career game in week two against the Chargers, carrying 13 times for 109 yards. Both of these stats fall just short of career highs, with 14 carries in 2019 against Washington and 131 yards against the Rams earlier that same season. Pollard also caught three passes for 31 yards, his third best receiving game with the Cowboys.
Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore deserves a lot of credit for his game plans through two weeks, showing the ability to adjust while also sticking to what the Cowboys and QB Dak Prescott do well. This is clear when looking at Pollard's usage at Los Angeles.
Instead of giving away that Pollard was getting the ball with his 21 snaps, the Cowboys ran their RB2 out of formations they'll throw from as well. Ezekiel Elliott was on the field for two of Pollard's carries, and 12 of his touches came as consecutive plays – allowing the timing to be established behind this Dallas OL.
The Cowboys first touchdown came on this sweep to Pollard, with Cedrick Wilson in motion. Whether it was a receiver or tight end, the Cowboys using motion on Pollard's touches was a common theme. At times this allowed them to set the edge with TE Dalton Schultz, or create space in the passing game for Pollard.
Even when the Cowboys ran Pollard out of tight formations that Elliott typically sees, his burst created big plays. Following a 16 yard run in the first quarter, the Cowboys ran Pollard with CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper stacked at the top of the formation. The result was a six yard gain to set up second and short, which Pollard picked up with his third straight touch, a dump off pass with Schultz in motion the opposite way.
Pollard consistently made the first man miss when he needed to, even getting around Joey Bosa for a six yard gain in the second quarter before running out of the shotgun on the next snap for four more. On this carry, the Cowboys used the threat of Dak Prescott keeping the ball to hold the Chargers front seven.
I saw Tony Pollard played 21 snaps. And I knew he had 16 touches.
But I'm just processing them together. That is a ridiculously high usage rate.
Tyron Smith and Zack Martin both looked like the All-Pro linemen they are on Pollard's longest rush of 28 yards in the third quarter. Amari Cooper motioned behind the line before the play, keying that the Cowboys were likely running it, but the Chargers still allowed Martin and Smith to climb to the second level and create space for Pollard.
Smith even lined up out wide for this screen pass to Pollard, a first down catch after the fake to Elliott. In their loss to Tampa Bay, the Cowboys knew they needed to air the ball out to keep up with Tom Brady and the Bucs. Los Angeles looked to slow this game down and limit the Cowboys possessions, but Moore kept the Chargers on their heels thanks to the Cowboys' depth at WR and now RB.
Ezekiel Elliott on being happy for Tony Pollard’s success: “It’s a brotherhood. Every week we all got the same goal … win football games. I see the work he puts in. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team, and he’s very talented. He deserves to go out there and play well.”
In a longer 17 game season now, the Cowboys need for a legitimate backup to Elliott has never been greater. Tony Pollard is filling this role perfectly through two games, with Elliott supporting him fully. Both bring different skills to the Cowboys backfield, but Pollard's ability to put his foot in the ground and cut similarly to Elliott against the Chargers was impressive.
Two of the Cowboys top five rushing outputs last season came against this week's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles. One was a win behind Andy Dalton at QB, the other a loss in Ben DiNucci's only career start. Monday's game being the Cowboys home and division opener, I expect Moore's game plan to creatively feature both Elliott and Pollard out of the backfield.
The Eagles rank 29th through two games in pass yards per attempt allowed, something the Cowboys can change quickly with the vertical threat of Lamb and Cooper. Should they take their shots in the passing game early, look for more touches on the outside for Pollard where the Cowboys can block in space against a smaller secondary.