With 70 rushing yards to close out the 2023 regular season, Tony Pollard joined the likes of Calvin Hill, Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith, DeMarco Murray, and Ezekiel Elliott as the only running backs in Dallas Cowboys history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. While that’s an impressive accomplishment, it’s not quite the production No. 20 envisioned for himself after taking over as the full-time starter this season.
Cowboys RB Tony Pollard: “I thought I would probably have a better year than I am now. But where we are as far as playoffs and rankings, I couldn’t complain. Everything is in front of us.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 3, 2024
He said it’s been an “OK year” for him. “I hold myself to a higher standard. I try to be… pic.twitter.com/aLYxdD2ml1
For the majority of the season, the Dallas Cowboys struggled to run the ball consistently. The blame can spread throughout the team, whether it was the offensive line, the play-calling, or maybe just Tony Pollard taking longer to get 100% healthy after last year’s season-ending leg injury that required surgery. Despite all of that, the team was able to put together an efficient rushing attack, ranking 14th the league in yards per game.
The Cowboys have pretty much lived and died by the pass all season, but that doesn’t mean this team isn't capable of grounding and pounding the ball if/when needed. In fact, there is reason to believe Tony Pollard is ready to do just that by the way he continued to improve throughout the year, especially from Week 9 to the regular-season finale against the Washington Commanders.
You may or may not be aware of it, but No. 20 was one of the more productive running backs in the entire league from Week 9 through Week 18. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Tony Pollard ranked third in PFF’s rushing grade, was fifth in yards after contact, and third in missed tackles forced during that time span.
Since Week 9, Tony Pollard ranked 3rd in PFF rushing grade, 5th in yards after contact and 3rd in missed tackles forced.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) January 8, 2024
TP playing his best ball when it matters most. #Cowboys
No matter how much stock you put into PFF's grading system, there's no denying Tony Pollard looked much more like his old self in the latter part of the season this year. The explosion and agility that we weren't seeing much of in the first half of the season has continued to improve, which is excellent news heading into the do-or-die postseason tournament.
Having No. 20 playing at his best in the most important part of the season could just be the spark that helps the Dallas Cowboys end the playoff curse that has haunted them ever since their Super Bowl success in the early 1990s. With him sucking in more defenders around the line of scrimmage, and CeeDee Lamb continuing to dominate in the passing game, Dallas' offense might just be the most feared in the postseason.
As in life, timing seems to be everything in the NFL. With Tony Pollard playing his best football right now the stars could be aligning for the Dallas Cowboys and their journey to the Super Bowl. With all of that in mind, expect a heavy dose of No. 20 against the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.