Tony Pollard

Ezekiel Elliott To Remain The “Focal Point” Of Cowboys’ Offense?

After their respective performances last season, many have envisioned a change in workload for Cowboys running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard going forward. While the latter could be in line for a more varied usage in 2022, the former is still viewed as being central to the team’s success. 

Owner Jerry Jones doubled down on Dallas’ reliance on Elliott yesterday, saying that he “has to be the focus” of the Cowboys’ run game (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). The 27-year-old has been a full-time starter since his rookie season, though he logged the lowest snap share of his career (66%) last season. Slowed for the latter stages of the campaign in particular by a knee injury, the former top-five pick still recorded 1,000 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns.

His efficiency (4.2 yards per carry) compared to Pollard (5.5), however, led to questions about which back deserved more opportunities – which continues in the build-up to this season, one in which Elliott is expected to be healthier. Jones insists that he “has to be the focal point” of the offense, as he has been in years past, including the three-year stretch to begin his career in which he led the league in rushing yards per game.

In the absence of Amari Cooper and, at least early on in the seasonMichael Gallup, Dallas’ passing game figures to look much different in 2022 and faces the possibility of being less productive than last season. Especially in that event, a return to form from Elliott would be sorely needed. From a financial perspective, it would also ease concerns about his future; Elliott has five years remaining on his current deal, but no guaranteed money is included after this season.

On the other hand, Pollard is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could play his way into a sizeable free agent deal with another career-year. As Jones added, “there is room for Pollard while Zeke is in there,” but if he has his way, the much-maligned veteran will still shoulder a heavy load as the Cowboys look to make another postseason run.

Cowboys’ Tony Pollard To Spend Time At Slot WR?

The end of the 2021 season left a bad taste in the mouths of the Cowboys and their fans, but one bright spot was the play of backup running back Tony Pollard. The 25-year-old should see more playing time in 2022, but not just in the backfield. 

Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News details that Pollard is in line to spend time as a slot receiver this season, in an effort to maximize his skillset. He was a factor in the passing game during each of his first two seasons in Dallas, totalling 60 targets during that span. As he did in every other category, though, he increased his productivity in that department in 2021, with 39 catches for 337 yards.

Those totals – along with his 5.5 yards-per-carry average and effectiveness as a kick returner – require the Cowboys to find ways to put him on the field. As Watkins makes clear, however, doing so will not come at the expense of Ezekiel Elliott‘s workload. The former No. 4 overall pick still has five years remaining on his contract, and will look to rebound from a disappointing end to 2021, which was hampered by a knee injury.

Even if Elliott does remain a workhorse back, Pollard should still be able to receive close to the 169 total touches he had last season, if not more. In the absence of Amari CooperCeeDee Lamb should be in line to operate more on the outside in 2022, along with Michael Gallup (when healthy). That would leave snaps available for the Memphis alum in the slot.

Watkins names Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey as comparable backs to the usage Pollard may receive this season, albeit on a much smaller scale. While it remains “doubtful” the latter receives a contract in the vicinity of the one Dallas gave Elliott, Pollard would of course help his free agent value with a repeat of last season’s performance, as 2022 is the final year of his rookie contract. His remarks on the prospect of a hybrid role show his willingness to embrace an increased workload.

“I’m open to anything just being on the field, being able to make the most of my opportunities” he said. “If I have to line up in the slot a little more, whatever it takes, I’m ready to do it.”

Cowboys Rule Out Three For Week 18

More names are being added to the list of players the Cowboys will be without for Saturday’s regular season finale against the Eagles. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that cornerback Trevon Diggs, safety Jayron Kearse and running back Tony Pollard will not travel with the team to Philadelphia. As such, they have been ruled out. 

The news comes after Dallas learned of multiple other key pieces they will be without on Saturday. Defensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner Micah Parsons tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and it was announced that the same was true of left tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Anthony Brown on Thursday. A non-COVID illness is listed as the reason for Diggs’ absence, while hamstring and foot injuries are ailments sidelining Kearse and Pollard, respectively.

The loss to the secondary is huge for the Cowboys. Diggs has had a breakthrough second NFL season, with a league-leading 11 interceptions (two of which have been returned for touchdowns) along with 21 passes defensed. Kearse, meanwhile, has registered 101 tackles, two interceptions and 10 passes defensed in 16 games in 2021. Without these two starters, options to fill in include Kelvin Joseph at corner and Donovan Wilson at safety.

As for Pollard, Dallas will miss his production as well. His third season has been his best, posting 719 yards and two touchdowns on 130 carriers (for a 5.5 yards per carry average) along with 39 catches for 339 yards in the passing game. Without him, the Cowboys may need to lean more heavily on starter Ezekiel Elliott just one week before the playoffs start. In the event they want to keep him as fresh as possible, though, Corey Clement could see a big uptick in usage.

Of course, all of these absences would matter much more to the Cowboys if they extend beyond this week; Dallas has already clinched the NFC East, while the Eagles are also guaranteed a postseason berth regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game.

 

Tony Pollard Uncertain For Week 14

As things currently stand, the Cowboys are unsure what their running back situation will look like for Week 14. Backup Tony Pollard has called himself a “game-time decision,” per ESPN’s Ed Werder (via Twitter). 

Pollard said he suffered a torn left plantar fascia while scoring a touchdown against the Saints in Week 13, via the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken. The foot injury kept the third-year running back out of practice Wednesday, and Pollard said he is still feeling pain from the tear. With Ezekiel Elliott battling a knee injury, the Cowboys’ high-end backfield setup has taken a hit.

Pollard has enjoyed his best season to date, turning 107 carries into 602 yards and two touchdowns while adding 31 receptions for 259 yards along with a return touchdown. He delivered the Cowboys’ biggest offensive play during their win over the Saints, but that 58-yard dash — the Cowboys’ longest run in four years — proved somewhat costly.

Meanwhile, Elliott is improving from his knee injury, according to Mike McCarthy (via Werder, on Twitter). McCarthy expects both backs to play Sunday, when the Cowboys visit Washington.

Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson Likely Done For Season

Cedrick Wilson‘s season has likely come to an end. The Cowboys receiver suffered a sprained ACL, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer.

Barring any surprising developments, it’s unlikely that Wilson will see the field again in 2019. Fortunately, the wideout won’t require reconstructive surgery on his knee, according to Archer. That kind of operation would have sidelined the second-year player for most of the offseason program.

The Boise State product was a sixth-round pick by the Cowboys back in 2018, but he sat out his entire rookie campaign thanks to a torn labrum. He was cut by Dallas at the end of the 2019 preseason, and he subsequently landed on their injured reserve. The 24-year-old was promoted to the active roster in mid-September, and he’s hauled in five catches for 46 yards in six games. Wilson has also returned three kicks (for 64 yards) and two punts (for 13 yards).

Archer passed along a few additional Cowboys injury notes. The team is hoping that running back Tony Pollard can return to practice and play against the Rams next week. Pollard missed Thursday’s game against the Bears with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, punter Chris Jones recently suffered an abdominal strain, but the left-footer isn’t expected to miss any games.

NFC East Notes: McCown, Treadwell, Cowboys

The Eagles made a surprising decision to sign Josh McCown out of retirement on Saturday, and the fact that they gave McCown a $2MM guarantee suggests that he is a lock to make the roster. Indeed, Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP reports that Philadelphia was trying to sign McCown even before presumptive QB2 Nate Sudfeld was sidelined with a wrist injury (Twitter link). Shorr-Parks notes in a separate tweet that HC Doug Pederson declined to say whether Sudfeld will remain the primary backup. Pederson said he will figure that out when Sudfeld heals.

Let’s round up a few more NFC East items:

  • Former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell is on the trade block, and Matt Lombardo of NJ.com believes the Giants could make a play for him. Treadwell played under New York head coach Pat Shurmur when the latter served as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, and Shurmur held the Ole Miss product in high regard not that long ago. Given the current state of the Giants’ WR depth chart, Lombardo suggests it would be reasonable for Big Blue to send a sixth- or seventh-round pick to Minnesota to see if a change of scenery can unlock some of Treadwell’s potential.
  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may not want to meet QB Dak Prescott‘s asking price — said to be at least $35MM per year — but he confirmed that Prescott’s eventual contract will put him in the top tier of quarterbacks. Jones said, “[a] lot of people question whether Dak is one of those guys that need to be in the top tier. I’ve never questioned that. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s in the top level of paid quarterbacks…Now, how do we make this all fit and what can we do to have the best team around him? That’s what we’re trying to work on” (Twitter link via Jon Machota of The Athletic).
  • Tony Pollard‘s performance in training camp and the preseason may be giving the Cowboys a little leverage in their contract talks with Ezekiel Elliott, and Jones said “Zeke who?” when asked if Pollard is becoming the team’s best negotiator with Elliott (Twitter link via Machota). Jones made it clear he was joking and said he believes Pollard will be an excellent complement to, and not a replacement for, Elliott (in case you missed it, we heard this morning that Elliott will not face criminal charges for the altercation between him and a security guard in May).
  • Despite spending the entire 2018 season out of football, Cowboys WR Devin Smith has a legitimate chance of cracking the team’s roster, as Machota tweets. Smith caught a TD pass in Dallas’ preseason contest on Saturday, and his play has been very strong over the past week. The former Jets second-rounder signed a reserve/futures deal with the Cowboys in January.

NFC East Notes: Williams, Cowboys, Giants

Trent Williams continues to hold out from Redskins camp, but the team is standing firm on the trade front. Despite acquiring Donald Penn, the Redskins have told teams they have no plans to trade Williams, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Teams continue to inquire about the 10th-year left tackle’s availability, but thus far, Washington has resisted. Williams, 31, is upset with the organization because of his contract and its handling of a health scare of his. Some around the league believe the Patriots will make a play for the seven-time Pro Bowler, but nothing is moving on this front yet. This may be an attempt for Washington to drive up the price, but for now, Williams remains a Redskins employee.

As for Washington’s left tackle situation, Penn and 2018 third-rounder Geron Christian are battling for the spot, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Ereck Flowers is back at guard but may be behind fourth-round rookie Wes Martin.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Deandre Baker will miss time for the Giants because of a knee sprain, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (video link). However, the first-round pick’s ACL did not sustain damage, and the Giants appear to expect him back soon. Baker will likely be asked to start in his first season, with Big Blue’s cornerback corps rather thin.
  • The Cowboys gave fourth-round pick Tony Pollard just four carries in their preseason opener, but Jerry Jones may be using that to send a message to holdout Ezekiel Elliott. “He looks confident out there. We know he’s inordinately understanding what it is he does and what he can do,” Jones said, via ESPN.com’s Todd Archer. “We’ve seen him do it. We know he’s capable, if he really needs to, carry the whole load.” Pollard gained 16 yards against the 49ers. While Dak Prescott‘s negotiations have been talking points in the past two days, not much has emerged on the Elliott front. Jones said (via Jon Machota of The Athletic, on Twitter) nothing has changed regarding Dallas’ extension candidates.
  • Third-year Cowboys defensive end Taco Charlton addressed his current situation, which may not involve a full-time starting role. The 2017 first-round pick has just four career sacks and said he was not asked to rush quarterbacks as much as he did as a rookie. He mentioned discussing his NFL future with his agent recently (via Machota, subscription required). “We know my value and everything like that, so everything is good,” Charlton said. “I’m here right now working hard with this team. I will show up every day to work hard, healthy, hurt, whatever may be. Shoulder hurt, I still show up every day to work hard.” The Cowboys have DeMarcus Lawrence recovering from surgery, Robert Quinn out two games with a suspension and Randy Gregory once again banned. The defending NFC East champs will need Charlton, especially early.
  • On another NFC East defensive line, the Eagles saw their 2017 first-round pick return to 11-on-11 drills. Derek Barnett participated in team work for the first time in camp, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia notes. Barnett spent the offseason recovering from a shoulder injury that sent him to IR in October. The Eagles traded Michael Bennett and lost Chris Long to retirement, pointing to a big role for Barnett.
  • The Giants lost another wide receiver for the season. Recent addition Amba Etta-Tawo tore one of his Achilles’ tendons, per NJ.com’s Matt Lombardo. In his second camp with the Giants, the Syracuse alum has yet to play in a regular-season game. Big Blue is down Sterling Shepard and Corey Coleman and will be without Golden Tate for the season’s first four games.

Cowboys Notes: Zeke, Cooper, Martin

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones remains optimistic that his team will be able to get star RB Ezekiel Elliott back in camp, but he is not willing to capitulate to Elliott’s demands, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News writes. Zeke, of course, is holding out of training camp and is working out in Mexico. He is under club control for two more seasons, and while Jones obviously wants him back, it will have to be on Dallas’ terms (which makes sense, given all of the other contract situations the team needs to address).

Now for more from the Cowboys:

  • Executive VP Stephen Jones said he had no update on the Elliott situation or on Amari Cooper‘s contract talks (Twitter link via Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). Jones indicated that there has not been much dialogue with Cooper’s camp about a possible extension. Cooper is presently dealing with a bruised heel that started bothering him Friday, so he may not see much action for the next few days, as Hill notes in a separate tweet.
  • Cowboys guard Zack Martin recently underwent an MRI on his back, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The club is encouraged by the results, but Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News reports that Martin has some irritation to a disc and could miss at least a week (Twitter link). It does not sound like there is any reason to panic at this point, but Martin will not be rushed back, and this could become a situation to keep an eye on.
  • Dallas could use some depth at guard — especially with Martin’s absence — and at cornerback, and Stephen Jones said the team is looking to sign a player or two at both positions (Twitter link via Hill).
  • Tony Pollard may not have entered the league with the same hype that accompanied Elliott a few years ago, but the fourth-round rookie has been very impressive in camp. Stephen Jones did not hesitate when naming Pollard as the young player who has stood out the most, per Hill (via Twitter).

Cowboys Sign Most Of Draft Class

The Cowboys have most of their draft signings out of the way. Everyone in Dallas’ draft class has agreed to, or signed, their rookie deals, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter), save for third-round guard Connor McGovern.

The following Cowboys rookies are now in the fold:

Hill, a 6’2″, 315 pound defensive tackle, left UCF on a sour note and openly complained about his lack of playing time in the team’s Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU. Throughout the year, Hill clashed with coaches and started only once in the team’s eleven regular season games. Still, the Cowboys see big potential in this supersized lineman.

Pollard, meanwhile, offers upside as a runner and as a receiver. Last year, he saw 78 carries out of the backfield and averaged 7.1 yards per try. He also caught 39 passes for 458 yards, showing that he is a multi-talented threat.