3. Tony Pollard, Running Back
Dallas Cowboys starting running back Ezekiel Elliott is coming off the worst season of his young NFL career. The two-time rushing champion failed to even reach 1,000 rushing yards this year and struggled to hold onto the ball for much of the season.
Those struggles encouraged the team to give more playing time to their backup running back Tony Pollard. The 23-year old showed a burst and quickness that the 25-year old Elliott appeared to have lost this year. Those skills were clearly on display when he ripped off a magnificent 40-yard touchdown run against the San Fransisco 49ers.
The second-year back was coming off an incredibly efficient rookie campaign. Pollard managed to post an impressive 5.3 yards per rush and finished his first season with 455 rushing yards despite not even getting 100 carries on the year.
Despite the fact that Pollard’s yards per rush dipped to a more pedestrian 4.3 this season he still managed to finish the year ahead of Elliott in this category. The young back is also generally considered a much better option in the passing game than the teams’ starting back. It was also encouraging to see the 23-year old receive more playing time as the year progressed.
Another skill that Pollard demonstrated this season was his ability to protect the football. Through his first two years in the league, he has only fumbled once. That marks a stark contrast from the teams’ starting back who tied his career-high with six fumbles this season.
Ezekiel Elliott’s struggles this year allowed Tony Pollard to get more of a look in his second season. The young running back has been very efficient and good at taking care of the football through his first two years in the league. His burst and agility allow him to be a good complement to the teams’ starting back and should encourage Dallas to continue to give him even more playing time in 2021.
All of these factors point to the possibility that Tony Pollard could have a breakout season in 2021. The Dallas Cowboys would be wise to continue to feed Pollard the ball next year and that might possibly lead to a breakout season for the young runner.