Dallas Cowboys: Could a backup be their secret weapon?

Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

After a preseason full of hype, this backup had a fairly quiet rookie campaign. Could he be the Dallas Cowboys’ secret weapon in 2020?

The stop-and-go motion of the hype train is a real thing. Each and every year, one player, in particular, seems to be the conductor of the Dallas Cowboys‘ locomotive of potential. Unquestionably, that guy in 2019 was rookie running back Tony Pollard.

With the possible, yet unrealistic threat of a hold out from superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott in play, Pollard started training camp as the “starter.” That designation lasted the entire preseason as Elliott played hardball with the Dallas Cowboys, spending his entire camp South of the border in Cabo San Lucas.

Elliott’s missing-in-action status and daily briefings by those at camp fueled the hype train as seemingly day after day, Pollard did something that got all of those who follow this team quite excited. Even though his preseason was semi-pedestrian, visions of Pollard paired with the eventual return of Elliott further added fuel to the fire.

With Elliott returning just days before the season opener against the Giants, all eyes were on Pollard. In his first game as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Pollard returned to his backup role, getting 13 carries but only managing 24 yards.

Just like that, the steam power of the train seemed to cool down. Pollard received just four carries the next week on the road, foreshadowing a tactic that the now-defunct coaching staff would employ throughout the season. Fear not, however, as it only takes one moment to fire up the hype quickly.

That moment came in Week 3 against the Dolphins. In a blowout 31-6 victory, Pollard has his first career game with over 100 yards rushing. With 13 rushes and his first career touchdown, it looked like the excitement surrounding Pollard was justified. Leave it to former head coach Jason Garrett to once again shut down the train.

Pollard received just 28 carries in the next ten games, two of which he did not get a single chance to tote the rock. Give the rookie credit, however, as he did not let this get him down. In fact, in his final three games, Pollard had yet another 100+ yard game and averaged 6.8 yards per rush in almost 30 attempts.

That strong finish to 2019 has to make one wonder, could Tony Pollard be the Dallas Cowboys secret weapon in 2020? A lot of factors could make that possibility a reality heading into the new season.

Obviously, Ezekiel Elliott will continue to get the lion’s share of the touches coming out of the backfield. Owner Jerry Jones is not paying him nearly $11 million this season to be a decoy or lose playing time to a sophomore with less than 90 career rushes.

The loaded receiving core of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and rookie/new conductor of the Dallas Cowboys hype train CeeDee Lamb will also get plenty of touches. Adding to the pass-catching mix will also be tight end Blake Jarwin and you can figure that the ball will be in the air a fair amount of the time in 2020.

All of this could actually work in Pollard’s favor, however. With all the talent surrounding him and a capable coaching staff who could employ his skills, both in the run and pass game, Pollard will certainly not be the focal point of any opposing defensive game plan. This will likely provide him the opportunity to be one-on-one and in space, both of which would favor Pollard.

Even with the addition of Lamb, the continual progress of Gallup, and the star power of Elliott and Cooper, Pollard should get more than the 101 total touches he received in his rookie year. It is not hard to envision a scenario in which Pollard posts 600+ yards on the ground and another 300+ receiving.

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Do not be shocked when Tony Pollard has more breakout moments in 2020. With so many weapons at the Dallas Cowboys disposal, he should thrive as the forgotten man and could truly be the secret weapon worthy of the hype.