On the Wednesday before the Dallas Cowboys’ Week 8 game against the Chicago Bears, running back Tony Pollard was asked if he was ready to take on an increased workload with Ezekiel Elliott dealing with a knee sprain.
"“If they call it. I’m a haul it. Whatever they ask me to carry I got it.”"
That’s exactly what Pollard did on Sunday. The RB2 (more like an RB1-A) went off in what was only Elliott’s second missed game in his entire career. The entire offense was explosive, putting 49 points up against Chicago, which was by far their largest point total all season.
However, Pollard was the highlight. He proved to Dallas, the front office, NFL fans, and fantasy football team owners that he can be an RB1 for any team and deserves to play that role. He was also the first Cowboys player since 2004 to have 100 yards and three touchdowns in a game. In other words, Pollard didn’t just replace Elliott. He surpassed what the Cowboys’ RB1 has been able to do for quite some time.
Pollard finished the day with 131 rushing yards on 14 carries (including a 54-yard touchdown run) and 16 yards on a reception to total 147 yards and three touchdowns. This matchup marked the second game of the year (Week 3) where the Memphis product had a 100+ yard game.
According to Bleacher Report, Elliott hasn’t had a game with 100 yards at all this season. In fact, it’s been 19 games since he’s done so. So far in 2022, the Ohio State product has only topped 80 yards once while receiving the bulk of the carries.
So does this change things for the Cowboys’ running back group? That highly depends on who you ask.
Cowboys GM and Ezekiel Elliott homer Jerry Jones couldn’t wait more than ten minutes after the game to tell reporters that there’s absolutely no running back controversy in Dallas. Once again, the out-of-touch owner repeated that this team “goes as Zeke goes.”
Jerry Jones still says the Cowboys “go as Zeke goes” minutes after Tony Pollard’s incredible Week 8 performance
Sadly, this isn’t surprising. Jones has never admitted when he’s wrong, and he was wrong to add six years and $90 million to Zeke’s contract ahead of the 2019 season when we are in an era where running backs don’t last and QB/WR duos rule. The owner is obviously going to side with a man whose base salary is a whopping $12.4 million this year.
But couldn’t Jones have at least said something more along the lines of, “We are so proud of Pollard, but right now we aren’t making any future running back decisions?” Nope. Straight to backing Elliott as he always does.
"“No, there’s no argument. Zeke’s ability to punish, Zeke’s ability to deliver it, Zeke’s ability to what he does for us in pass protection & frankly Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there.We’re going to go as Zeke goes. I really mean that. Zeke’s that important to this team and every bit as important as he was before the game.I really mean he’s that integral to our success this year.”"
Look. Zeke is doing well this year. The Cowboys have a great problem to deal with. They have two top-tier running backs. But for Jones to make this statement just minutes after Pollard went off like he did felt a bit ridiculous.
However, according to his teammates, Pollard likely won’t be too affected by the owner’s words. The running back is a team player and is there to do what he does best. Quarterback Dak Prescott made that clear in his post-game press conference:
"“He went out there, backed those words up, and that’s who he is honestly. Him saying that statement is not about, ‘Hey, give me 30 carries so I can show you.’ It’s, ‘Hey, whatever coach calls for me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability for this team.’ He’s talented as hell and he’s not just another back for us. He’s a playmaker and a weapon that we will continue to use.”"
And, for what it’s worth, Elliott is happy about Pollard’s success, too:
"“Tony ran lights out. He did his thing today. He took off. I know what Tony is capable of. He’s explosive, but he’s physical, too. He can do everything. I’m proud of Tony. It’s always good to see someone that puts a lot into this game reap the rewards.”"
Pollard’s performances this season will certainly result in him reaping rewards in 2023. It’s just whether or not those rewards/dollars come from the Cowboys. The 25-year-old is set to be a free agent and plenty of teams will be chomping at the bit for a talented and young back if Dallas decides to hold onto Elliott.
With the way he is playing, the Joneses likely can’t afford to keep both backs. We will see if they change their mind as the season continues.
Elliott will get a full extra week of rest with the bye week and is expected to return in Week 10 against the Packers. Seeing what happens with this RB duo for the rest of the season should be very interesting. Expect more of the same team play from Pollard, no matter what Jones says:
"“I mean, I’m always trying to go out there and show what I can do, prove myself right, prove others wrong and just play team ball,” Pollard told ESPN’s Todd Archer."