Each and every week, we will assess a different question that Cowboys Nation has on its mind. In this week’s game, similar to most of the season, a good chunk of the nation was enamored with the play of Tony Pollard, including a 57-yard house call. Pollard has become accustomed to breaking off chunk plays for this Cowboys offense.
Longest plays so far this Cowboys season: a 45-yard catch, 46-yard run and a 57-yard run. All by Tony Pollard.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 9, 2022
Statistics like this bring up the question:
Why do the Dallas Cowboys insist on playing Ezekiel Elliott over Tony Pollard?
Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete may very well have explained it best.
“It’s like you have a sledgehammer that starts it off: boom, boom, boom,” Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete told Yahoo Sports from the postgame locker room. “Then a sword comes in and slices it up.”
Elliott repeated the analogy multiple times, smiling.
“Shoot, I think it’s fairly accurate,” he told Yahoo Sports. “You can definitely look at it that way, and either way: You don’t want to get hit with a sledgehammer or a sword.
“I think we’re a good football team when we put the run first and we’ve got to keep leaning on guys. That’s going to open up the play-action pass. I feel like that’s the best recipe.”
There you have it! If it was easy enough to complete an analogy with medieval weaponry, Peete did that and more. However, does it totally make sense? Elliott’s pass protection is as good as any running backs in the league, but does that warrant nearly double the rushes of Pollard through the first five games? In those touches, Elliott has averaged 3.8 yards per carry opposed to Pollard’s 5.6.
Elliott’s brute strength in the run game is a strength that sometimes is overlooked. The contrast of the two styles of running was described as “thunder and lightning.” With Elliott obviously being the thunder in the reference, it can’t lightning without thunder, right? Meaning these long plays to Pollard couldn’t be set up without the brute running of Elliott. We have yet to see Pollard take over the backfield and doubt we ever will as long as Elliott is there, which means we will never truly know what his ceiling looks like.
Is that a problem, or should we relish in the fact that the Cowboys have two different backs that both contribute in different ways?
Pre-MNF, Tony Pollard has the 5th-best PFF grade among RBs, and he's third in rushing grade.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 10, 2022
Additionally, among RBs with at least 20 carries, Pollard ranks:
2nd in yards after contact per carry
2nd lowest stuff rate % (runs for loss or no gain)
10th in First down/TD %#Cowboys
The easy solution would be for Pollard to get more carries and see what changes. The narrative that Pollard can’t handle inside work into the line is negated by the above statistic, which mentions him as owning the second lowest stuff rate among running backs with at least 20 carries. He’s good enough to lead a backfield in some regards, but does him handling a majority of the workload opposed to Elliott alter this Cowboys offense significantly, or is the current split fine?
Which running back do you prefer?
This poll is closed
Tony Pollard time