A large contingent of Dallas Cowboys fans are convinced the team would have deated the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs had Tony Pollard not been injured. While Dallas would have survived without Pollard against most teams, his departure was a death-knell going up against the 49ers' vaunted defense.
With the game still in the balance in the second quarter, Pollard suffered a broken fibula and high ankle sprain following a big run.
It was a heartbreaking end to a fantastic season for Pollard, who made his first Pro Bowl after eclipsing 1,000 yards on the ground. While history can't be rewritten, Pollard participated in the early portion of OTAs and should be fully cleared with time to spare before training camp.
It might behoove the Cowboys to sign another proven back by then. Not because Pollard couldn't handle an increased workload, but to keep him fresh after he ranked as one of Next Gen Stats five-most explosive runners in 2022.
Cowboys' Tony Pollard among Next Gen Stats' most explosive runners from last season.
Per Next Gen Stats, Pollard's 87 explosive score ranked fifth among ball-carriers. His score topped the likes of Dalvin Cook (83), Josh Allen (84), Derrick Henry (85), Saquon Barkley (86) and Nick Chubb (87), respectively.
That's impressive company as it features three of maybe the top 5-7 running backs in the league. Only Travis Etienne and Kenneth Walker posted higher explosive scores at the position than the Cowboys star.
More noteworthy, though, is that 16.1% of Pollard's rush attempts last season went for 10 or more yards. That was the most of any running back. He also tallied 15 runs of 10-plus rush yards over expected and clocked 43 runs in which he reached 15-plus miles per hour.
Finally, Pollard forced 41 missed tackles and averaged a whopping 3.82 yards after contact per attempt. For context, Derrick Henry averaged 3.61 yards after contact per attempt, while Nick Chubb averaged 3.48, Saquon Barkley posted 2.78 and rushing champ Josh Jacobs averaged 3.4 yards YAC per attempt.
The proof is in the pudding, folks. Pollard is one of the league's most dynamic and explosive backs. He's going to get all the work he can handle next season, but Dallas would be smart to add an established RB who specializes between the tackles to take the pressure off.
That's not to say Pollard will break down by season's end, but fatigue or heavy legs could become a factor if he receives 20 or more touches per game.
If that happens you can count on his explosive run output taking a significant step back, and that's part of what makes him so vital to the offense.