The Dallas Cowboys, you can argue, have an embarrassment of riches at the running back position. On one hand, they have arguably the best running back in the game in All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott. Last April, however, their backfield added even more firepower when they selected Tony Pollard with the 128th pick in the fourth round out of Memphis.
After averaging over nine yards per touch in college, as well as tying an NCAA record with seven kick-return touchdowns, Pollard was brought in to give the Cowboys running game a change of pace. He would only gain a minuscule 46 yards on 17 carries in the team’s first two games, however, he was about the breakout.
In Week 3 vs the Miami Dolphins, Pollard and Elliott did something that hadn’t been done for the Cowboys in over two decades. In addition to Elliott’s 125-yard performance, Pollard would rush for 103 yards, making them the first Cowboys running back duo to rush for over 100 yards simultaneously since 1998.
Over the next eight games, Pollard wouldn’t have more than eight carries or 28 yards in any contest, that was until the Cowboys were in desperate need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive in Week 15. Elliott put on a show with 117 yards and two touchdowns, however, he would be outmatched by his rookie teammate. On just 12 carries, Pollard led the team with 131 yards as the Cowboys dominated the Los Angeles Rams 44-21.
Although his touches were limited, Pollard was very effective in 2019. He gained 455 yards on 86 carries (5.3 yards per rush) and scored three total touchdowns. Dak Prescott finished second in passing (4,902 yards), Elliott finished fourth in rushing (1,357 yards), and Amari Cooper finished eighth in receiving (1,189 yards) as the Cowboys offense finished number one in the NFL. The fact that Pollard was able to be as productive as he was with so many other players performing at a high level on offense speaks to his extraordinary talent.
With that being said, Pollard could be even more effective in 2020. For one, the Cowboys need to use him in the passing game more. Having caught 104 passes in college, Pollard could be a matchup nightmare in the slot with his speed and quickness. This would allow the Cowboys to have both he and Elliott on the field simultaneously. Also, as I mentioned earlier, he tied an NCAA record with seven kick-return touchdowns, so it might be wise for the Cowboys to maximize his ability by letting him dive back into that at some point.
This is exactly why I feel like new Head Coach Mike McCarthy will figure more ways to use Pollard in his West Coast system which is designed to get the ball into your playmaker’s hands quickly and let them be productive. He’s too fast and too dynamic to not have him touch the ball around 10-12 times a game. The more he gets the ball the more you take the load off of Elliott and preserve him for the long haul, a win-win situation.
There’s no limit to where Pollard’s natural talent can take him. One thing is for sure, though, defenses for the next few years better eat their Wheaties in the morning before playing the Cowboys with Elliott and Pollard in the backfield.