You know that incredibly giddy feeling you get when, in what seems to be the result of utter happenstance, you stumble upon a bit of loose cash or coinage in previously worn clothes? It’s like winning free money, and although nothing new was actually added to your lump sum, it sure feels like it to your brain. That’s because you had no previous knowledge of the jewels that were hiding unbeknownst in your back pockets.
Yet there they remained the entire time – stagnant, dormant, just waiting to be unearthed.
Such is the case with the Dallas Cowboys and their recent exhumation of high-caliber running back Tony Pollard. The jack-of-all-trades Swiss army knife has done it all for the Cowboys this season. He’s been a consistent force in both their offensive schemes and on special teams.
But what makes his new emergence even more ebullient to a team with a profuse need for answers is this: not only is he a fresh bit of newly-acquired currency to help repair Dallas’ misfortunes, his highly-rising stock can serve as an enticing investment to increase their offensive net worth over time. And right now (granted, Dak Prescott remains sidelined), that total is near bankruptcy.
Pollard’s not even close to his full potential as a weapon out of the backfield, or on the receiving end. In what was supposed to be Ezekiel Elliott’s Jay-Z-esque “takeover” year after Prescott’s injury, the man whom he shares nearly everything with – from film room sessions to the brunt of practice time – has stolen the spotlight right from underneath his nose.
Elliott, who’s been tabbed with doglike qualities in his own right for his ferocious disposition on the gridiron and propensity for being “fed”, was unable to use his bloodhound radar to sniff out the incumbent danger that lurked in his rearview. #21’s ability to dissect and eliminate opposing attackers has clearly been inhibited in comparison to year’s past (he’s in the midst of his lowest ever seasonal rushing average), but even he couldn't have been prepared for imminent jeopardy to his job in the form of friendly fire.
Pollard, like a thief in the night, has stalked and prodded, and when given opportunities to seize the target, he’s pounced. His rushing total is dwarfed by Elliott’s when it comes to cumulative yardage crunched (339 to 832), but when that sum is factored in with Pollard’s number of chances, the reverse becomes true (4.5 average per carry to 3.9).
He’s also failed to relinquish the ball – a pitfall that’s swallowed Zeke whole up to this point in the year. But statistical production rarely tells the entire story. Game footage drives a nail into the debating coffin.
And right now, watching comparative reels between the two pits Pollard in a standalone category apart from Zeke. There are so many races in which Pollard has a leg up on his running back counterpart.
Versatility? Pollard’s shown gradual productional advances in the receiving game, and while Zeke was a favorite target of Prescott early on in several late-game comeback efforts, his ball handling woes have seemingly seeped into the catching aspects of his game. Drops are coming by the plenty for #21 as of late, plus Pollard’s value in special teams has shown itself explicitly in recent weeks. So the edge remains with Pollard here.
Zeke is still the alpha power runner, but where Pollard lacks in brute bull-rushing aptitude, he complements with a rare stop-on-a-dime cutting prowess that allows that him to escape would-be tackles.
And, of course, the best ability is availability. Point goes to Pollard in this category as well: Elliott is dealing with calf soreness that may hamper him in the ‘Boys Sunday standoff with San Fran.
So right now, the ball is in Pollard’s court to make an extensive impression on his check-cutters. He’s shown a propensity to do a lot of things with that ball up to this point. But time is dwindling in this unique seasons of seasons, and the final buzzer beckons in the distance.
Pollard’s clutch-time shot-making nerve is still a question in need of answers. But with a stark focus on him in the team’s forthcoming tilts, it’s one that’s going to be answered quickly.