This offseason, it seemed like one of the topics of conversation for the Dallas Cowboys was the running back “situation” between Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott. Who will they use the most this season? Will that give the Cowboys the running game they need?
In the 2021-’22 season, Tony Pollard broke out and gave Cowboys fans a look at what could be with him as the running back. On the other hand, Ezekiel Elliott was just trying to get through the season with a torn PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) knee injury. Since his injury, Elliott has shown a diminished ability to shed tackles and has less burst through the hole.
Featuring An “Injured?” Running Back
Elliott believes this injury will not hinder him this season. A PCL is usually caused by a hard hit on the shinbone when the knee is bent or when a player falls over the knee when it is bent. Sometimes PCL injuries change your ability to make explosive movements. Because of this, many fans and people across the league are wondering if Pollard will get more touches this season.
However, Dallas Cowboys Owner and General Manager, Jerry Jones is saying that Zeke is their “feature(d)” running back.
“We gotta have Tony Pollard out there. No, seriously, Zeke’s gotta be our feature, and he is our feature,” Jones said. “We can feature him in a lot of different ways. We all recognize what he does in the passing game because of his protection ability. Don’t ever underestimate that especially with Zeke. Zeke takes some tolls when he’s out there as a back blocking. So it’s critical that we make Zeke — because he’s capable of being that — really the focus of what we’re doing. Now then, Pollard, there’s plenty of room for Pollard. There’s plenty of room for Pollard when Zeke’s in there. Pollard needs to get the ball.”Dallas Cowboys Owner and General Manager, Jerry Jones to NFL.com
Using Both Backs?
It’s possible both running backs could be focal points on offense this season depending on what is needed against certain teams. Tony Romo said earlier this offseason on “Maggie and Perloff” that we could see a shift in philosophy with the Cowboys offense getting back to the ground game in 2022. In 2016 and 2017, the Cowboys finished with the number two rushing offense in the league. Last season, they were number nine in rushing yards per game, and the year before they were number seventeen. It sounds like Jones wants to get back to running the ball as well.
Last season in minimal reps, Tony Pollard displayed an obvious explosive ability. He set career-highs in carries (130), rush yards (719), and scrimmage yards (1,056). This was his first career season with 1,000+ scrimmage yards. His 3.6 yards after contact per carry were fifth most in the NFL last year.
Elliott Not Playing In The Preseason
Many fans were upset when they heard they weren’t going to get to make sure that Elliott’s knee was 100%. I think a lot of fans don’t get that they aren’t a coach or a general manager. Elliott addressed the fans’ questions about playing in the preseason to Jon Machota of The Athletic. He said, “I’ve been playing football 20 years. This is my seventh year (in the NFL). I’ve seen a lot of football. I don’t think I need a preseason game, especially with the joint practices.”
Since being drafted fourth overall by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliott has proven to be one of the most durable running backs. He has averaged more than four yards a carry and played in double digit games every season of his career.
Why are fans so worried they aren’t getting to see Elliott in the preseason? Well, they saw Elliott’s average yards per carry decrease from 4.86 to 3.49 after suffering the injury last season. A 4.86 yards per carry average would have ranked 11th in the NFL last season. He would have been ahead of other stars like Dalvin Cook (4.7), Aaron Jones (4.7), and Derrick Henry (4.3). This could have been huge for the Cowboys last season. A season that many fans believed was thrown away when he was injured.
The Salary Makes You A Featured Back?
A lot of fans believe that Dallas gave Ezekiel Elliott way too much money for what he had given the Cowboys overall. He is one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL. In 2019, he signed a monster contract for six years for 90 million with 50 million in guaranteed cash.
Fans believe this monstrosity of a contract is hindering the team financially even though Dallas is said to have around 19 million left in salary cap space. Elliott is getting paid more than Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, and Joe Mixon. For this money, people around the league believe he has to be the featured running back of the Cowboys’ offense.
In an interview, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said that he wants Zeke to be the focus of the offense.
“We can feature [Elliott] in a lot of different ways. We all recognize what he does in the passing game because of his protection ability. Don’t ever underestimate that especially with Zeke. Zeke takes some tolls when he’s out there as a back-blocking. So it’s critical that we make Zeke — because he’s capable of being that — really the focus of what we’re doing. Now then, Pollard, there’s plenty of room for Pollard. There’s plenty of room for Pollard when Zeke’s in there. Pollard needs to get the ball.Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys Owner and General Manager Said To Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports
I expect Ezekiel to be the featured running back in our offense. However, I think we will see Tony Pollard in the backfield a lot. Pollard catches the ball too easily for him not to be. Last season, Tampa Bay’s defense limited Elliott to 33 rushing yards. If that happens again this season, I know we will be seeing Pollard play more and you are going to hear the fans’ displeasure. Watch Dallas vs Tampa on September 11th at 8:20 pm then come here for our coverage.