The addition of head coach Mike McCarthy has led many to assume that second-year running back Tony Pollard is going to get a boost in playing time thanks to his pass-catching skills whether in the slot or out of the back field. While that is possible, that could be overlooking the fact that starting running back Ezekiel Elliott is just as effective when catching the ball out of the back field. Even though it was a small sample size, Elliott has shown he can get the job done as well as any in the NFL.
As for the reasons he will out perform Pollard, let’s kick it off.
Elliott has the size and power advantage
When you mix Mike McCarthy’s ability to create plays that get his running backs in open space with the size and power of Elliott you are creating a deadly combination. At 228 pounds, Elliott in the open field against the smaller defensive backs is an advantage over Pollard who weighs in at 209. Elliott knows that most defensive backs aren’t going to try to tackle him at his waist and will instead try to go low on him. And we all know how he’s made those players look when he’s able to run over them or hurdle them.
The same can’t be said for Pollard. Those same players are going to be able to take him on and bring him to the ground if they are able to get a solid hit on him.
Elliott’s effectiveness when catching the ball
When most people think about Elliott, they see the bruising running back that wears teams down throughout a game while not realizing that over the past four seasons Elliott has amassed 189 receptions for 1,619 yards and a catch percentage of 77.8%. That’s better than Todd Gurley who many believe is one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league.
We all know that Elliott wasn’t effectively used in the passing game under Garrett, and now with McCarthy calling the shots you can expect more creative ways for Elliott to be used. And not just basic wheel routes, but creative screens that give him the opportunity to get to the second and third levels of the defense with little resistance from defensive lineman and linebackers. While Pollard has shown he can make plays catching the ball, Elliott has shown that he can as well.
Elliott’s reputation as a runner
The final reason the Ezekiel Elliott will be more effective than fellow running back Tony Pollard is because of Elliott’s reputation as a running back. Ever since entering the NFL, the Cowboys have seen eight man fronts thanks to his skill and punishing style as a runner. Although Pollard is a good running back with elusiveness and speed, but he doesn’t have the same reputation, yet.
When Elliott steps foot on the field defenses are going to most certainly focus on stopping the run which will give McCarthy the opportunity to run play-action with designed plays that allow Elliott to sneak out into the flat or underneath, giving him more room to work with. Teams loading up to stop the run with Zeke might have the wrong personnel out there to deal with pass plays. The same plays can be run with Pollard, but right now he is seen as the pass-catching running back and defense are going to make sure they have someone covering him so they aren’t beating by the pass.
Who do you think will be the more effective pass-catching running back for the Cowboys this season? Zeke or Pollard?
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