For two years Tony Pollard has been one of the best RBs in the NFL. It took the Dallas Cowboys some time to realize that, but thankfully, they got there eventually. Now a new era begins in Dallas and Pollard is given the keys to ground game.
Running back success has long been difficult to measure. Even back in the Barry Sanders – Emmitt Smith days, fans and analysts have argued whether Smith was truly an elite talent of just a byproduct of an elite offensive line (often forgetting how talented the Detroit line was at the same time).
Tony Pollard has been one of the top RBs in the NFL and it should continue in 2023 when the Dallas Cowboys make him the unquestioned starter.
Pollard, playing on the franchise tag, will given the keys to the offense for the first time in 2023. Ezekiel Elliott has been released and the Dallas Cowboys only tip-toed around the position in the offseason.
Ronald Jones is a proven veteran but in no way a threat to Pollard. And the rookie Deuce Vaughn is a sixth round pick and given his small stature, a probable career change-of-pace back. Nope, this Pollard’s show in 2023.
How much of a workload increase will Pollard see remains to be seen. He’s not a bruising back and he’s never had more than 200 carries in his career. He’ll get more touches but probably won’t even approach Zeke’s old workload.
The good news is Pollard has been tremendously productive in the carries he’s had and there’s no reason to think those numbers will drop in the RB1 spot. RYOE (rushing yards over expected) measures what a RB does over and above his blockers. Pollard finished top-10 in this stat last season.
EPA/Play measures actual production. This is as much a byproduct of blocking and play-calling as it is the runner himself. The Dallas Cowboys used Pollard and Zeke almost interchangeably last season (which was always a head-scratcher because they were vastly different runners) so short yardage runs are already built into Pollard’s numbers.
There’s no reason to expect more short yardage runs for Pollard in 2023 so the efficiency should stay the same as long as the blocking and play-calling remain strong.
Tony Pollard has been one of the most efficient and productive runners in the NFL and that is unlikely to change as the RB1 in 2023.