The Cowboys could be smart to have a complementary again to assist handle the workload.
The Dallas Cowboys have made it clear that Tony Pollard is their new lead working again as they formally launched Ezekiel Elliott final Wednesday. The crew additionally positioned the franchise tag on Pollard renting his providers for one 12 months at a price of $10 million. Whereas the way forward for the working again place for the Cowboys isn’t clear, we not less than know the crew will roll with Pollard in 2023.
This information ought to make a variety of followers comfortable as many have been advocating for extra alternatives for the Cowboys’ explosive runner. In reality, it felt prison at instances to see the crew’s fresher-legged and extra explosive working again underutilized throughout his rookie contract. After simply 86 carries his rookie 12 months, his speeding makes an attempt went up 17% the next 12 months, then up 28% the following 12 months, to lastly a 48% improve this previous season. And wouldn’t you understand it, Pollard put collectively a 1,000-yard season and was chosen to his first Professional Bowl.
Whereas Pollard’s touches did improve this previous season, it was nonetheless baffling at instances that the coaches didn’t put the ball in his arms extra. Final 12 months’s working again coach Skip Peete was quite upfront about Pollard’s utilization because the crew intentionally restricted his snaps to maintain him recent. Peete has come out and stated:
“the juice isn’t the identical and he’s not as fast, not as quick. When he had that long term on that third-and-1 (speaking about Pollard’s 54-yard landing towards the Bears), as quickly as he received to the sideline, he stated, ‘Coach, I’m carried out. I’m carried out for the sport. Finished. I received no extra.’”
Peete would go on to explain Pollard’s skills with the next analogy:
“Some guys are race automobiles, some guys are high-quality, costly sedans,” Peete stated. “These sedans can go perpetually and for an extended distance, at a really excessive price. The place race automobiles go very quick and fast after which they run out of fuel. I’ve all the time simply felt that at that place you bought to all the time have two guys which might be high quality backs that may assist one another, bounce off one another. And it helps if their working types are a little bit bit completely different.”
Whereas all of us love the ball in Pollard’s arms, we would like him utilized appropriately so he can deliver that additional gear to the offense. Operating him into the bottom would profit nobody. In attempting to raised perceive Pollard’s effectivity all through his profession, we’ve plotted his speeding makes an attempt in all 62 of his common season video games to see how his yards per carry stack up versus his utilization. What we discovered was quite fascinating.
Pollard’s yards per carry seem to peak at 13 speeding makes an attempt after which slowly dips. The candy spot for him is about 11 to fifteen speeding makes an attempt. As a result of the Cowboys have been cautious with Pollard’s utilization, there isn’t a variety of knowledge the place he’s given additional carries so we wish to watch out to not overreact to it. Moreover, although his effectivity drops a bit, it doesn’t fall off a cliff. Throughout his career-high 22 rushes final 12 months towards Inexperienced Bay, he nonetheless produced at 5.23 yards per carry effectivity. That’s fairly good.
Whereas Pollard’s slight drop-off in effectivity isn’t that worrisome, Peete’s remark about his juice not being the identical seems to carry true. Over Pollard’s profession, he’s had 14 video games the place he’s had a run of 25 yards or extra, however in none of these video games did he hit the 15-carry mark. Limiting Pollard’s touches preserves his juice. You may additionally discover from that graph that Pollard’s yards per carry numbers are a little bit down when he will get 5 or fewer carries. This clearly isn’t associated to his lack of juice, however quite a results of him not getting sufficient alternatives to interrupt an enormous run.
One other fascinating correlation is how the Cowboys really carry out in video games the place Pollard’s utilization is close to that candy spot. When he will get 12 to 18 speeding makes an attempt, the Cowboys are an ideal 14-0. After they under-use him, they’re simply 4-14 (.222), however that successful proportion goes as much as 17-11 (.607) when he will get 5 to 11 makes an attempt. And within the two video games the place Pollard has greater than 18 speeding makes an attempt, the Cowboys misplaced each of them.
We simply witnessed the Cowboys half methods with a working again who as soon as had the juice, however then confirmed a major decline when his mileage caught as much as him. Proper now, Pollard has 510 profession carries that are nonetheless lower than what Zeke had after simply two years within the league.
Whether or not Pollard is a part of the Cowboys’ long-term plans to the place they’d wish to protect his shelf-life or if he’s simply right here for an additional season, the crew must get one other working again on the roster that may carry a number of the workload.
The Cowboys are nicely conscious of this, however it is a good draft class for working backs. The crew shouldn’t really feel pressured to make use of early draft capital for a participant like Texas’ Bijan Robinson or Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs. There are some nice runners who shall be accessible in later rounds. With gamers like Auburn’s Tank Bigsby, Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh, UCLA’s Zack Charbonnet, Texas A&M’s Devon Achane, or Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda, the alternatives are plentiful. The Cowboys’ Professional Bowl working backs on both aspect of Zeke, DeMarco Murray and Pollard, simply so occur to be third and fourth-round picks respectively, so we all know discovering a great again in later rounds is doable.
Draft a rookie working again, protect Pollard’s explosiveness, and collectively assemble a pleasant one-two tandem that may assuredly pack a higher punch than what the Cowboys had a 12 months in the past. That’s the trail to success for the Cowboys’ 2023 speeding assault.