Despite the ending, there was much to enjoy from the Dallas Cowboys’ 2021 season. Some great player performances were expected, such as the offense playing among the best in the league. Quarterback Dak Prescott did much as expected, throwing for almost 4,500 yards, 37 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 68.8 completion percentage. He had his ups and downs, but that was expected coming off a major ankle injury.
Offensive linemen Zach Martin and Tyron Smith both played at an elite level once again as well. Young star wide receiver CeeDee Lamb had a good sophomore season in an expanded role. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence played up to his “war daddy” label as well.
But, which players surprised us the most in 2021? I will highlight three players on defense and two players on offense that played above expectations.
5 Cowboys players who gave surprisingly great performances in 2021
5. Tony Pollard, RB
Stats: 130 rushes, 719 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns, 5.5 yards per carry, 39 catches, 337 receiving yards, 8.6 yards per catch
Some may argue that this wasn’t a surprise as Tony Pollard is known as a swiss-army knife type of weapon already. However, his impact on the offense was sensational this season. In a year where Ezekiel Elliott struggled, Pollard had 5.5 yards per carry on over 100 rushes. The Memphis product was a great change-of-pace back and was the reason for many explosive plays this season. When the offense was stagnant, Pollard was one of the most reliable guys to depend on for getting the team out of that slump.
To further help his argument as a surprise, the former fourth-round pick improved his yards per carry by over a yard from 2020, his yards per catch by a yard and a half, and his rushing yards per game by almost 20 yards. Tony improved in almost every statistical category you can find.
With Pollard coming up to the last season of his rookie contract, you can imagine he will be putting his all into next season. If that means even more improvement next year from the former Memphis Tiger, then the Cowboys may need to fork up more money than they originally anticipated if they want to keep him around for the long haul. We even argued that Pollard deserves to start over Elliott in 2022.