There will be no shortage of position battles for the Dallas Cowboys this year, but running back won’t be one of them. In Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, the Cowboys have one of the better RB duos in the entire league. There’s no questioning who’s the top dog and who’s the backup between the two, however, how each is deployed and utilized in 2021 is a different story.
Since Pollard joined the Dallas Cowboys as a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Elliott’s role has continually decreased. To the naked eye it wouldn’t seem so, but if you were to take a deeper dive into each player’s offensive snap counts over the last two seasons it’s easily noticeable.
In 2019 it was basically a 80/20 split between Zeke and Pollard, who was just a rookie at the time. Zeke played 83.59% of the offensive snaps while Pollard only played 17.75%. That’s not all that surprising considering No. 21 freshly inked a big money contract extension and the fact Pollard was just a rookie. It’s what was expected.
Things surprisingly changed a little bit in 2020 though. Believe it or not, instead of the 80/20 RB timeshare it ended up being more of a 70/30 split. Zeke’s offensive snap count percentage decreased to 68.79% while Tony Pollard’s increased to 31.65%. Based on this information, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see things change once again in 2021.
If things continue on their current trajectory, a 60/40 RB timeshare between Elliott and Pollard could be in the works for the Dallas Cowboys this year. It’s nothing more than speculation at this point, however, it’s not completely inconceivable that such a thing could happen either.
Zeke is coming off his worst year since joining the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. It’s unclear if he might have lost a step or if it was more due to the fact the Cowboys offensive line was the walking wounded last year. Whatever it was, there’s no denying No. 21 wasn’t the same last year and it might’ve opened the door for Pollard.
Pollard is an exciting player anytime he touches the ball whether it’s as a runner or as a receiver out of the backfield. He may not be capable of being a true every-down back, but he is no doubt someone who deserves more playing time. In order to for that to happen, though, it means the Cowboys have to take the ball out of Zeke’s hands a little more.
In that case, we could very well see more of a 60/40 split between Elliott and Pollard in 2021. Not only would it benefit both players for the long haul now that the league has expanded the NFL season, but a running back timeshare is something head coach Mike McCarthy has favored in the past as well.
Again, this is nothing more than speculation as of right now. There’s no way of knowing how things will play out between Elliott and Pollard in 2021. Having said that, there is a little bit of a trend line suggesting more of an even timeshare could be coming. It’s going to be really interesting to see how all of this works out as the season progresses.