The misuse of the most explosive player on the roster.
Tony Pollard is an electric player with the ball in his hands. His highlight plays from last season had many fans calling for the 3rd year player from Memphis to take Ezekiel Elliot’s job as the starting running back. While his play will never be enough to supplant the bell cow Elliot, it has earned him the opportunity to see increased snaps by moving to the slot position. The sad part of this situation however, is that Pollard should have been the Cowboys primary slot receiver the moment he was drafted out of Memphis.
- More experience as receiver and returner: If you go back and look at Pollards tape at Memphis, you will see something surprising. He RARELY actually lined up as running back. In three years, Pollard played 40 total games, but he ended his career with only 106 career rushing attempts. That translates to under 3 rushing attempts a game (2.65 to be exact). He spent most of his time as a return specialist and was considered one of if not the best in the NCAA. Pollard ended his career with 7 total return touchdowns which tied the FBS all-time record. Even as a receiver he proved more effective than he ever did as a running back posting 12 career receiving touchdowns to only 6 career rushing touchdowns. Pollard’s biggest strength has always been his elusiveness in the open field with the ball in his hand. Playing the slot would give Pollard more of these opportunities.
- Pollard is not great at pass blocking. Normally pass blocking for a running back is a secondary concern but in Dallas it is vital for the offense’s overall success. The Cowboys offensive line ranked 23rd as a unit in pass block win rate. Their struggles in the trenches led directly to drive killing holding calls and negative plays. With the leaky nature of the front-line Ezekiel Elliot’s presence as a premier pass blocking back was needed. Tony Pollard does not have the frame or size to consistently take the punishment of blocking defensive ends and defensive tackles. Elliot provides the experience and size needed for blitz pick up that Pollard lacks.
- Lack of explosiveness at wide receiver. The Cowboys have had an exceptionally good receiving core over the years, however the one thing they have lacked is a consistent home run threat. Pollard has the speed and vision to turn a routine slant route into a touchdown thanks to his speed, athleticism, and experience as a kick returner. He is explosive enough to make opposing defenses account for him and his alignment on every play. While Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb were a deadly tandem when still together but neither consistently got behind the defense. The departures of Cooper and Cedrick Wilson means that the Cowboys will have even less size and route running on the field so adding a player who has the athleticism that Pollard has into the lineup will remedy some of the production lost. Pollard posted a blistering 4.38 40 time at his pro day and has was clocked at reaching 21.17 mph during his 58 yard touchdown against the Saints. While Pollard is capable of creating explosive plays in the running game his potential as a big play receiver is to obvious to overlook.
Tony Pollard has shown flashes of his potential over the course of his tenure in Dallas. He has cemented himself as a fan favorite and has made several big plays for the Cowboys. It is now up to Kellen Moore and the offensive coaching staff to put Pollard in a position to succeed consistently. The limited snaps on offense as a backup running back has kept one of the Cowboy’s biggest weapons off the field for far too long and the continued misuse of one of the most explosive players in the league will surely haunt the Cowboys this season if not addressed.