Tony Pollard undoubtedly had the best game of his four-year career last week against the Chicago Bears. Pollard ran for 131 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries.
His big game put him in the running for the NFL’s Ground Player of the Week award. But is it time Pollard got a nomination to become the Dallas Cowboys RB1?
Zeke Elliott vs. Tony Pollard by the numbers
Pollard’s playmaking ability far exceeds what Ezekiel Elliott is capable of, and it’s evident by their stats this season:
- Pollard: 81 carries for 506 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and five touchdowns
- Elliott: 109 carries for 443 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and four touchdowns
Pollard has the 13th most rushing yards in the NFL and is tied for sixth in touchdowns. He’s also tied for the second-highest yards per attempt, trailing only Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.
The Athletic Football Show did a deep dive into the advanced analytics, and what they found proves it’s time for Pollard to become Dallas’ lead back.
Pollard leads the league in EPA (expected points added) per rush while Elliott ranks 31st. That metric determines how many points a player is worth to their team.
Pollard is also third in success rate, which measures an RBs efficiency in relation to down and distance needed to move the chains. Elliott ranks 27th in success rate.
If you think Pollard’s success is thanks to favorable situational use by Kellen Moore, think again. The percentage of rushes Pollard has taken against boxes stuffed with 8+ defenders is the fourth-highest in the league.
Not only is Pollard putting up monster numbers on limited carries, but he’s facing defenses schemed to limit his production.
Jerry Jones still rides with Zeke
In the offseason, Jerry Jones emphasized the Cowboys offense is dependent on Elliott. Jones said it goes as Zeke goes.
Even after Pollard’s dominant Week 8 performance, Jones reiterated that same sentiment. Yahoo Sports asked Jerry if he understands why people argue for Pollard to become the Cowboys RB1. He said:
“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, and 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.”
Is Jones too proud to play Pollard?
In 2019, the Cowboys gave Elliott a six-year, $90 million extension. Unfortunately, he hasn’t lived up to that deal.
Part of the reason for that is due to Elliott’s high usage levels in his early seasons with the Cowboys. In two of his first three seasons, he led the NFL in rushes.
All that wear and tear is impacting Elliott in his seventh year. He suffered a partially torn knee ligament last season that slowed him down, and is currently dealing with a minor knee injury suffered in Week 7.
Despite his body starting to break down and the obvious impact Pollard has made, Jones still rides with Elliott. Only Jerry has the answer to why that is, but from an outsider’s perspective, it seems like Jones isn’t prepared to admit he was wrong to give Elliott a huge deal.
If Jones can put his ego to the side, it will better position the Cowboys to win a Super Bowl this season.