Now in his seventh season with the Dallas Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott has been as reliable as they come. Outside of his 6-game suspension, Zeke has now only missed four games with just two of those due to injury. This one could have been the most prevalent of his career as he had a front-row seat to Tony Pollard’s coming-out party where Pollard exploded for 131 yards on 14 carries while adding three touchdowns.
After Sunday’s big win against the Chicago Bears, Jerry Jones was quick to state that he does not foresee the Cowboys changing roles when it comes to Ezekiel Elliott.
Should Tony Pollard’s breakout performance prompt the Dallas Cowboys to take a serious look at their current backfield situation?
Getting the start this past Sunday, Pollard would not be stopped as he gouged the Bears’ defense for 9.4 yards per attempt. This brings his season total to 6.2YPC on 81 attempts for 506 yards through 8 games. On the other hand, Zeke is averaging 4.1 YPC on 109 attempts totaling 443 yards in 7 games.
It doesn’t take an expert analyst to see that Pollard is more efficient with his opportunities compared to Elliott but that doesn’t automatically mean that Pollard should supplant Zeke outright.
Both backs bring their own specific skillset to the Dallas Cowboys running game. Even Jerry admitted as much.
"“Tony Pollard made a lot happen,” Jerry Jones said. “We’ve got to remember that. He creates opportunities. Breaks tackles, that quickness. That burst he has really adds to our run game… a different runner than Zeke…pick your poison. Zeke is so punishing.”"
It’s up to (Mike) McCarthy and (Kellen) Moore to find a balance that best utilizes each back’s skill sets better.
Zeke brings an old-school style with his powerful and punishing style while Pollard brings a modern-day feel with his speed and elusiveness. So which player/style benefits this Dallas offense the most?
By the Numbers
As the Dallas Cowboys enter their much-needed bye week, both Zeke and Pollard have been effective in an offense that was missing its franchise quarterback for five games. Through 8 games they have combined for 949 rushing yards, 5.2 YPC, 9 touchdowns, and 63.3 YPG while adding 18 receptions for 153 yards.
So why are people questioning the running back situation in Dallas?
When diving deeper into the numbers we see that Elliott is touching the ball 16.4 times a game to Pollard’s 11.6 or roughly a 60-40 split in Zeke’s favor. The problem here is that TP bests Elliott in almost every category.
What pops off the stat sheet the most is that Pollard is averaging 2.1 more yards per rushing attempt on 28 fewer carries and has 63 more rushing yards.
It’s clear to see that Pollard has the edge when talking about big-play ability, elusiveness, and homerun ability as we saw in the 4th quarter against Chicago to put Dallas up 49-29. On the other hand, Zeke gains the upper hand in short-yardage and pass protection as he is arguably the best pass-blocking back in the league.
Moving forward, Jerry and company should look at keeping a 60-40 split but in Pollard’s favor. Bringing him in on 1st and 2nd down while Zeke handles the majority of the 3rd down carries, short-yardage/goal line, and pass protection.
It’s yet to be seen if Pollard will be given free rein or if Jerry will revert to Zeke. Either way, with Elliott inactive this past week, he’ll have a 21-day rest before suiting up when the Dallas Cowboys head to Lambeau to take on the Packers on November 13th.
How would you split the carries?