There is a pretty common misconception about Tony Pollard. A lot of people view him as purely a home run hitter of sorts, a big play specialist if you will. Obviously Pollard is capable of pulling off runs for huge gains which is how his reputation has become what it is. Truth be told, though, he is also an extremely tough runner.
Everybody knows that Pollard finished the 2022 season with 1,001 rushing yards, but did you know that 737 of them came after contact? We are talking bout over 70% of his rushing yards came after some sort of contact.
If you are wondering how that ranks relative to other Dallas Cowboys seasons, our friends at TruMedia have the data since 2000 to provide us with the answer. Pollard’s 737 yards after contact on rushes are the fifth most that any running back has had since the turn of the century in a single season.
Taking a look at some deeper levels here, Pollard actually fares very well in this overall realm.
Tony Pollard stacks up well in recent Dallas Cowboys history in terms of success after contact
Anybody who has watched the Cowboys for the last few years knows that Pollard has been used much less than most would like. Understanding that Pollard’s workload is less than it has been for his current teammate Ezekiel Elliott, we can still look at his accomplishments after contact because that equalizes things a bit.
Specifically we wanted to take a look at yards after contact per rushing attempt to try and see where Pollard ranks, and we discovered a Cowboys running back has hit the 3.0 mark only seven times since 2000. Three of those performances belong to Pollard.
Dallas Cowboys Running Backs, Yards After Contact Per Rush (Carries For the Season)
- 2022 Tony Pollard, 3.82 (193)
- 2021 Tony Pollard, 3.61 (130)
- 2020 Tony Pollard, 3.59 (101)
- 2017 Alfred Morris, 3.30 (115)
- 2009 Felix Jones, 3.25 (116)
- 2019 Ezekiel Elliott, 3.23 (301)
- 2018 Ezekiel Elliott, 3.12 (304)
It stands to reason that Pollard (or anyone for that matter) would have had more difficulty keeping that 3.5+ pace over each of the last three seasons with significantly more carries, but we will never know the answer to what could have happened. Perhaps the future will bring us an answer along these lines, but it only seems possible if Ezekiel Elliott is out of the fold and not taking carries himself.
It is wildly impressive to see that Zeke averaged at least three yards after contact per rush in consecutive seasons starting in 2018 despite carrying the ball at least 300 times in both campaigns. It really speaks to how incredible he was for the first four years of his career.
Elliott has obviously regressed in the overall since 2020 began. Consider that he has 11 rushes of 20+ yards in that timeframe and that Pollard had nine this past season alone (sidebar... looking at all of this it was amazing to realize that Darren McFadden also had nine in 2015).
It is obviously unknown whether or not Pollard can handle an immense workload and keep up incredible marks after contact given that with more opportunity comes more wear and tear, and he is already in a difficult situation as he is returning from a fractured fibula. However, the fact that he has performed so well in yards after contact per rush in each of the past seasons suggests that it is a bit of a promising proposition. What’s more is that with such limited action over four years, he is in a far more fresh position than most starting running backs entering their fifth season in the NFL.
Don’t confuse Tony Pollard as just some sort of flash and dash type of player. He is much more than that.