The Dallas Cowboys lost a nail-biter against the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday. People including myself are arguably upset about some of the questionable penalties and flags that weren’t thrown but shouldn’t be the ire of the frustrations.
The Cowboys' lack of a consistent running game is hurting this team and Tony Pollard isn’t the same back as last season. Part of that could be due to the injury last season but it’s more about his usage in this offense.
While Pollard was very explosive to begin the season, his production has declined drastically and the way that head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are utilizing him needs to change. One of the main areas that Pollard has been the least effective is in the red zone where his lack of power has forced the Cowboys to rely on quarterback Dak Prescott to get the ball in the endzone.
Dallas currently ranks 29th in the NFL with a red zone percentage of 43.8%. Last season the Cowboys were at the top of the league at 71.4%. That’s a drastic drop and one way to look at it is the loss of Ezekiel Elliott, whose larger frame made it easier for the Cowboys to run the ball and score.
Why the Cowboys need to give Rico Dowdle more touches at Tony Pollard's expense
Pollard's lack of size in this area should have been recognized earlier by this offensive coaching staff and the team should be calling on either Rico Dowdle, who weighs 215 pounds, or rookie Hunter Luepke, who weighs 235 pounds. Pollard comes in at 209 pounds. While a slight difference in comparison to Dowdle, it's no secret that Dowdle has the more bruising rushing style.
Another area of concern for the Cowboys is the drop in production from Pollard when you compare his stats this season to last season.
Last year Pollard was averaging 5.2 yards per carry on 12.1 attempts per game, this season that number has dropped to 4.0 yards per carry, but his usage has increased to around 15-20 touches a game.
We get the Cowboys are trying to get the most out of Pollard before he hits free agency, but they need to look at what they have in Dowdle and Luepke. This team needs to get Pollard back to a more manageable touch rate and increase the touches for Dowdle, who has shown this season that he can punish teams a lot more with his size and physical running style. They also need to give Luepke more attempts around the goal line and allow him to use his 235-pound frame to punch the football in the end zone and not just continue to have Pollard run into a wall or try to find space to run.
If those two things are allowed to happen the Cowboys would benefit in two ways. One, Pollard would be a lot fresher in games and would have the potential to break off more of the runs we had grown accustomed to.
Two, the Cowboys red zone woes will start to get better utilizing their larger backs over Pollard. If this team wants to have any chance of making a run in the playoffs, they need to reduce the number of touches for Pollard and increase the touches for Dowdle and Luepke.