Dallas Cowboys: How much Tony Pollard do we want in 2020?

Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys plan to use Tony Pollard more in 2020 but how much is the right amount?

After the 2019 season it was clear to anyone watching, the Dallas Cowboys did not use Tony Pollard enough. The change-of-pace rookie was a big play machine, he avoided tackles with elite precision and broke off big gains with second-level elusiveness.  In fact, Pollard was so good, he had the highest elusive rating in the entire NFL last season.

So the question isn’t do we want more Tony Pollard. It’s how much more Tony Pollard do we want?

Touches, not carries

With Mike McCarthy running the show now, the Dallas Cowboys are putting an emphasis on “touches” for their running backs rather than carries. So we’d be wise to speak in the same terms since we can reasonably expect there to be less rushes and more receptions from the Cowboys HB stead.

This bodes well for Pollard since he was equal parts receiver and running back back in college. He’s not exactly slot receiver quality, as many fans want to make him out to be, but he’s a capable target downfield, and if schemed open (like we described in Expect more 2RB sets from Dallas in 2020), he can be quite the weapon specifically in 21 personnel groups.


At what cost?

It’s safe to say Tony Pollard’s touches will come at the cost of Ezekiel Elliott’s. It wouldn’t make much sense to take the NFL’s best receiving corps and not actually pass to them, after all. McCarthy has had a pair of dynamic RBs before (Ricky Williams and Deuce McAllister) and knows how to use them without sacrificing opportunities downfield.

As such, Zeke will no longer dominate the RB touches like he did last season and that’s good for both backs. Coming off his least explosive season as a pro, Zeke has noticeably slimmed down for the 2020 season. A fast and sleek Zeke coupled with an already svelte Pollard makes the Dallas Cowboys even more explosive and if Zeke isn’t asked to carry 90% of the workload, his body won’t have to suffer.

So how much is too much for Pollard and how much is just right?

That’s the real question and I imagine the answer will change week to week. It’s safe to say Zeke will likely garner roughly 75% of the RB touches as a whole this season. But that exact proportion will vary each week. Match-ups matter and Mike McCarthy is a big fan of exploiting an opponent’s weaknesses.

Reason to be excited

This is all good news to Dallas Cowboys fans. Not only does a bigger role for Pollard allow Zeke to slim down and focus on quality rather than quantity, but it increases the opportunities for one of the most explosive RBs in the NFL.

And Pollard doesn’t just take what’s given to him and explode through open holes. He actually creates yards on his own. His 1.05 yards over expectations per attempt were tied for 1st in the NFL. That’s considerably more than his teammate wearing No. 21 whose 0.37 RYOE were just 12th in the league. This tells you he’s not just a product of what the O-line is giving him and is actually adding value in his attempts.

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Patience required

Sadly Tony Pollard’s opportunities will likely be collateral damage to La’el Collins’ injury. Collins, Dallas’ starting right tackle, will begin the season on IR, meaning a back-up will be manning the edge for at least three weeks this season. Such a situation requires the Dallas Cowboys to use their tight ends and running backs in some sort of “support” role.

Whether that’s a true double team block or a helpful chip, Zeke is the preferable option in pass protection. It’s not as if Pollard is bad in pass protection, it’s just that Zeke is so dang good.

But as the season wears on expect Tony Pollard to get more and more touches. Teams stopped stacking the box against Dallas last season and we can expect that to continue in 2020 since McCarthy plans to go 11-personnel-heavy and spread out defense on the regular. This will present opportunities for both RBs in the running game as well as the passing game.

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Expect the Dallas Cowboys to increase TP’s touches considerably in 2020.Zeke’s still gonna eat but Pollard’s going to demand an extra slice of Zeke’s pie.

  • Published on 09/08/2020 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 09/08/2020 at 15:08 PM