The Dallas Cowboys don’t need a FB – they need Tony Pollard

Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Instead of forcing a traditional fullback onto the field the Dallas Cowboys should give Tony Pollard more opportunities.

The Dallas Cowboys roster felt the bite of COVID-19 when their primary fullback, Jamize Olawale, took the “opt out” option this season, kicking his contract can to 2021 and leaving Dallas without a proven FB on the roster. While the situation is certainly far from ideal, it may actually be a blessing in disguise if it means more opportunities for a certain Tony Pollard.

The idea of replacing a traditional fullback like Olawale with a true halfback like Pollard isn’t intuitive. Both have vastly different skill sets and as such, both offer extraordinarily different benefits on the field. But if we stop trying to replace and simply try to get the best possible talent on the field as much as possible, we’ll find there’s no other choice.

Fun Fact: Pro Football Focus rated the Dallas backfield of Pollard and Elliott third in the NFL. 

It’s something we’ve been discussing since the offseason began; the Dallas Cowboys need more Tony Pollard. The second year running back was a player Kellen Moore stood on the table for on draft day and someone Dallas had great success with incorporating into their loaded offense as a rookie.

He’s more than a change-of-pace back. He’s more than a 3rd down back. He’s a complete back who, like Zeke, can be utilized a variety of ways. He may not be as bulky as Zeke, but he makes up for it with better elusiveness and better big play ability.

Mike McCarthy wants more 21 personnel

Earlier in the summer we discussed Mike McCarthy’s plans for 2020 and how he specifically pointed out how he’d like to use some of the 2RB concepts used by Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. By loading the field with viable threats and using gratuitous amounts of motion, 21 personnel can be a significant weapon for both the running game and the passing game.

While we can’t condone the Dallas Cowboys sticking one of their top-3 WRs on the bench for long periods of time, we must accept there’s a time and a place and it doesn’t have to negatively impact the offense like it often did in 2019.

We broke down how the Dallas Cowboys used 21 personnel ineffectively in 2019 and how following the 49ers model like McCarthy has suggested, could do wonders for the Cowboys offense in 2020 (see related story below).

Related Story. How the Cowboys will use more 21 personnel in 2020. light

Ezekiel Elliott is a great fullback

Tony Pollard can’t seamlessly slide into Jamize Olawale’s old role, but Ezekiel Elliott sure can. We saw last season, the Dallas Cowboys running game was at it’s most efficient when Zeke was the FB/decoy and Pollard was the halfback.

This is no slight to Zeke since his No. 1 skill is his ridiculous versatility. Zeke can do it all: run powerfully between the tackles, bounce it outside with speed, catch the ball out of the backfield, pass protect with extreme prejudice, and even, yes, lead block.  Some of Pollard’s best runs last season were with Zeke on the field. No. 21 was either leading the way through the hole or pulling defenders away with a complementary motion or fake.

Tony Pollard is really, really good

Some may scoff at the idea of using Zeke in any capacity other than that of ball-carrier. “Zeke is generational,” they say. But Tony Pollard is pretty darn good too. In fact, he’s better than than Elliott in certain instances (with a min of 75 attempts, Pollard tied for 1st in the NFL with 1.05 yards over expectations per attempt, while Zeke finished 12th 0.37 RYOE).

Again, Tony Pollard is more than your traditional complementary back. He’s 6-foot-0 209 lbs and not afraid to run between the tackles one bit.

Of those with at least 60 rushing attempts last season, Pollard finished first in elusive rating and first in yards after contact per attempt. Running behind the Dallas O-line he did more with his attempts than even Zeke. Some of that speaks to his personal greatness, but it’s also a compliment to Zeke because often times Zeke was on the field leading the way through the hole or just acting as a distraction.

Tony Pollard needs more carries and getting him on the field in these 21 personnel groupings is a great way to do it. According to Sharp Stats the Dallas Cowboys used 21 personnel 94 times last season for a success rate below that of their 11 and 12 personnel success rate was. But by doing what the 49ers are doing with deception and motion, and adding a legitimate threat like Tony Pollard rather some replacement-level fullback, Dallas can optimize their 2 RB attack in 2020.

Must Read. How Sewo Olonilua can kill 3 birds with 1 stone in Dallas. light

Looking at the Cowboys success rate in 21, 11, 12 personnel. dark. Next

The loss of Jamize Olawale doesn’t have to hurt the Dallas Cowboys offense. It can actually help them if it means using Zeke and Tony Pollard at the same time.