The Dallas Cowboys did not use Tony Pollard enough in 2021. Or in 2020. Or in 2019. To date, Pollard has been used sparingly relative to how much people believe he should be which is an issue overseen by two head coaches, Jason Garrett and Mike McCarthy, but only one offensive coordinator - Kellen Moore. Entering the final year of Pollard’s rookie contract, the time is now for more playing time for a myriad of reasons.
If there is anyone who disagrees with this overall idea it seems like it is the Cowboys themselves. Generally speaking, the team wants to feed Ezekiel Elliott in the run game and not really entertain much else.
As many have long said, there are a number of ways to utilize Tony Pollard.
Tony Pollard has reportedly been receiving tutoring on the slot position
We are going on three weeks of Dallas Cowboys training camp and it feels like during each one a specific position has consumed all of our attention as far as it needing to be addressed. The last few days have been about the situation at kicker, but we are not long removed from wide receiver needing attention as well.
Before the Cowboys ever landed in Oxnard, they had an issue at wide receiver that was only exacerbated by James Washington’s injury. It has been nice to see the likes of Noah Brown and Simi Fehoko offering depth as well as Dennis Houston and T.J. Vasher providing showing their skills, but the question still remains how the Cowboys are going to seriously manage over the first few weeks of the season.
A “simple” fix to this solution is to bring in a veteran at the position which is something we have not seen yet throughout camp. The Cowboys did technically bring in KaVonte Turpin at receiver. but it’s not like he is going to contribute in the conventional way that receivers do.
Many have petitioned for Dallas to look inward to their own team when it comes to helping out here, a specialty move of theirs when problems like this tend to arise. The problem, though, is that looking inward here involves looking at Tony Pollard which is something that they haven’t exactly shown great consistency with.
Believe however much of it you want to, but the Cowboys are apparently taking this a little bit seriously right now. According to The Dallas Morning News, there has been special tutoring of Pollard regarding the slot receiver position which is something that would be awesome to see week in and week out regardless of what receivers are available.
Offensive quality control coach Kyle Valero has been privately tutoring Pollard on the slot position, preparing him for potential responsibilities to complement his primary role in the backfield. Increased slot work for Pollard can clear a path for him and running back Ezekiel Elliott to share the field more in 2022.
The personnel combination of Elliott and Pollard together is something the Cowboys have discussed and dabbled in for the past three years. Aside from about 20 plays during the first three games last season, the concept was sporadically applied.
A greater commitment is being demonstrated now.
While Pollard is still based with running backs coach Skip Peete and isn’t running routes with wide receivers during position drills, he and Valero talk slot between meetings.
“Just details like route-running, getting in and out of breaks, why we’re running certain plays and what’s the meaning behind them,” Pollard said. “We’re getting into the depth of why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, so it will make more sense in the big picture. …It just shows the hard work that I’ve put in.
“In the offseason, during the season, it’s not going unnoticed. Guys are noticing the things that I can do with the ball to help the team, just knowing that I can contribute more and more to the team.”
We have been burned here before so you are in no way at fault if you are in a “I’ll believe it when I see it” camp. We are literally at a point where Pollard is in the final year of his rookie contract and this team, through different overall staffs yet the same coordinator, has repeatedly had the same issue.
There are a number of different ways and points of data to exemplify the fact that Tony Pollard is a skilled playmaker when the ball is in his hands. Oftentimes this argument turns into him being a superior running back option to Ezekiel Elliott, but we don’t have to necessarily go down that line of debate. The Cowboys can actually have their cake and eat it too here, it is just a matter of them truly being as hungry as they are telling us that they are.
It is very possible that a year from now we are hearing reports about Pollard flashing all sorts of potential with whatever team that signs him in free agency come March. It would be quite the shame if the Cowboys never tapped into that elite potential, but it would be an even bigger one if they didn’t properly try.