As if the storied Dallas Cowboys had any history left to set, this could be the first season that America’s Team boasts two thousand-yard rushers in its 61-year history in the league. Tony Pollard currently has 506 yards through eight games, while Ezekiel Elliott closely follows with 443 yards, even after missing a full game due to injury. If calculated for the rest of the season’s nine games at their respective yards per game (63.3), both running backs will notch 569 more yards before the playoffs even begin, which would catapult the pair past the thousand-yard mark.
The dual-headed rush attack actually came close last year when Elliott finished the season with 1,002 yards while Pollard logged 719, but both backs have increased their yards per game by 5-10 yards this season as Kellen Moore puts more of an emphasis on a balanced pass and rush offense.
Dallas’ offense looked a lot different last year. What was commonly known as a pass-heavy attack had Dak Prescott averaging 37 pass attempts per game, which made good for the fifth-most pass attempts per game during the 2021-2022 season.
In his short time back from injury, Prescott has been limited to around 27 pass attempts per game. Prescott is likely to get into a groove and increase his pass attempts with more reps under center, but Dallas’ offense has been humming behind the two-headed attack of Pollard and Elliott, an attack that has led the team to a 6-2 record while mainly under the command of Cooper Rush.
Pollard has yet to rush for at least 15 attempts in a live NFL game, but has made the most of his touches behind a usual thousand-yard rusher in Elliott. A sight for sore eyes, Elliott has turned the tide on his yearly regression and is averaging near the same yards per carry as he did last season. Elliott is seeing a 62.1% snap share but is averaging two yards less per carry than Pollard, accounting for the discrepancy of their total yards for the season.
When Elliott couldn't go against the Chicago Bears last week, head coach Mike McCarthy put his full confidence behind Pollard.
“I think Tony can handle whatever we ask of him,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. “Our game plan approach is the same. We want to go in and play a certain way against this defense. I have a lot of respect to this defense; it has some similarities to the defense we faced last week. ... We’re going to run the ball.”
Pollard is coming off a career-high season where he averaged the fifth-best rush yards per carry ahead of Nick Chubb and Miles Sanders. But with Elliott’s contract valued at $15 million annually, Jerry Jones has made it clear that there won’t be an immediate change for the No. 1 option.
“There’s no argument,” Jones said after the game, via The Athletic’s Jon Machota. “Zeke’s ability to punish, Zeke’s ability to deliver, Zeke’s ability, what he does for us in pass protection, and, frankly, Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there, and we’re going to go as Zeke goes. I really mean he’s that integral to our success this year.”
Even if Pollard’s role isn’t expanded, Dallas is in good shape with both backs playing their best ball thus far into the season, with Elliott getting a well-deserved rest before the bye to get right for the back half of the season. If all goes well for the Cowboys, the combined effort of the two backs may be enough etch their names in the Cowboy’s history book as the first duo of thousand-yard rushers, all while pushing their team to the playoffs.