It’s never a bad thing in the NFL to have two running backs you can rely on. The Dallas Cowboys know that better than any team, having trotted out one of the best backfield duos in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard over the past few seasons.
The 2022 season marks Year 4 together for the pair, as well as the first year where the question is valid: who is the better running back? In past years, Elliott would be the answer. But after a midseason knee injury diminished his production in the back-half of last season, leading to Pollard’s emergence, the answer isn’t so clear anymore.
For that reason is why team owner Jerry Jones said on NFL Network Saturday that both will need to be on the field more this upcoming season. But that doesn’t mean Elliott isn’t a No. 1 option any longer.
“We gotta have Tony Pollard out there. No, seriously, Zeke’s gotta be our feature, and he is our feature,” Jones said. “We can feature him in a lot of different ways. We all recognize what he does in the passing game because of his protection ability. Don’t ever underestimate that especially with Zeke. Zeke takes some tolls when he’s out there as a back blocking.
“So it’s critical that we make Zeke — because he’s capable of being that — really the focus of what we’re doing. Now then, Pollard, there’s plenty of room for Pollard. There’s plenty of room for Pollard when Zeke’s in there. Pollard needs to get the ball.”
The Dallas Cowboys’ Featured Running Back will be Ezekiel Elliott
Pollard, a gifted pass-catcher, is expected to take on even more of a role as a receiver with Michael Gallup making his way back from an ACL tear. The result would be a backfield centered around Elliott, despite his numbers being down across the board in 2021.
Elliott managed to make it through all 17 games, but received a career-low 13.9 carries per game. Elliott’s 58.9 yards per game was the worst mark of his career. Pollard, who initially shined in brief spurts, became more of a weapon in the Cowboys’ offense. He set career highs in rushing yards (719), yards per attempt (5.5) and yards per game (47.9). Pollard’s 337 receiving yards put him above 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his career.
Elliott will have to fend off Pollard to perhaps keep his starting gig beyond this season. Having signed a six-year, $90 million extension in 2019, this season marks the last Elliott receives guaranteed money. Elliott, however, isn’t focusing on that. Only on taking care of his business every game day this season.
“I think it is a big season, but I think you can’t look too far down the road,” Elliott said Wednesday, per Todd Archer of ESPN. “I think if I focus on every day, if I focus on having a good day of camp, if I focus on taking it week by week, I think everything will handle itself. And I don’t think there’s really a reason to look that far down the road. I think if I handle my business every day, then I’ll be in a pretty good situation at the end of the season.”