3 young players the Dallas Cowboys should find snaps for

Bradlee Anae, Dallas Cowboys (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
Bradlee Anae, Dallas Cowboys (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports) /

3. Running back, Tony Pollard

I am about to say something pretty controversial, but sooner or later someone needs to just come and out say it. Right now, today, for at least this very moment, Tony Pollard is the best running back on the Dallas Cowboys.

Now, I am not the first person to call for more snaps for Pollard, and I surely won’t be the last before the season runs out. With star running back Ezekiel Elliott is in the midst of his worst professional season, the Cowboys need to give Elliott a break from time to time and work Pollard into the offense.

For the record, I am still a huge supporter of Zeke and in no manner, way, shape, or form am I advocating for Pollard to take Elliott’s starting spot. However, let’s just put our cards out on the table and be honest with each other. Between fumbles, dropped passes, and just an overall lack of explosiveness, Elliott has looked like a shell of his former self.

Sure, the injuries to the offensive line and quarterback Dak Prescott have surely affected Elliott this season. The Cowboys haven’t been able to establish the run consistently and when they have, it feels like there have been nine guys at the line of scrimmage to clog every hole. Playcalling has also had to change to help protect the revolving door of quarterbacks and play catch up. But none of this excuses the massive drop in production from Zeke this season.

Since 2019 Pollard has had more runs of 20+ yards than Elliott does in 318 fewer attempts. Zeke’s bruising style of play is usually a blast to watch, and it’s part of what made him an elite back ever since his days at Ohio State. However, those players rarely if ever age well and his lack of explosiveness seems to indicate he likely isn’t the exception to that rule.

Is this end of Ezekiel Elliott? I don’t really think so, but if it is, then Dallas fans can rest assured they have a multi-talented weapon on the roster behind him with Tony Pollard.

In his rookie year, Pollard averaged over five and a half yards per touch on 101 touches. It was admittedly, a relatively small sample size. But watching him makes it clear that he has an electric ability with the football in his hands, but to unlock it the Dallas Cowboys actually need to give him opportunities.

It would be a shame to see Pollard go the way of players like former Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar and wide receiver Tavon Austin. Two highly talented skill position players who had dynamic potential if the offense could get the ball to them…but for one reason or another, it was never able to.

Of course, it is possible that Pollard is akin to a really great utility player in baseball. The type that manages to hits .288 coming off the bench with a smooth glove, but once they take over as a full-time starter can’t even hit their weight. There is only one way to find out though and that’s by playing him. In a season like this, the time is now.

It’s also worth noting that this doesn’t need to be an either/or situation. The Cowboys can find ways to get both of their running backs touches. They could experiment with two-back sets, script a set number of plays for Pollard into the game plan, and even just spell Zeke a bit more liberally as the season goes on.

There is no reason for Elliott to lead the league for a third time in rushing attempts with another 300 carries (a number he’s already topped in three of his four previous seasons). Some plays off here or there in favor of Pollard could even benefit Elliott in the longterm.

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This year at times has certainly felt like a lost season for the Cowboys. But it doesn’t have to be. By prioritizing some of the younger talents on the roster and playing them so that they can develop, the Dallas Cowboys can go a long way towards evaluating their football team and setting themselves up for future success.