Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Wednesday that he envisions running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard as "No. 1 runners."
Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk provided the quotes.
"Oh I think they both hold their own. I look at both of those guys as No. 1 runners, or however you want to categorize it. Tony can play. I think when you look at running backs—I know how I define them—[it’s about] their ability to play on all three downs, and Zeke and Tony both have that ability. Zeke’s done it his whole career. So I think they’re definitely a tandem and that’s obviously a focal point for us."
Pollard served as a backup to Elliott over the past three seasons, but his workload steadily increased each of those years. Of note, the ex-Memphis star had 169 touches for 1,056 yards and two scores in 15 games last season.
Elliott, who has worked as Dallas' starter each of the past six years, garnered 284 touches for 1,289 yards and 12 scores.
Pollard was more efficient than Elliott last season. He rushed for 5.5 yards per attempt (compared to Elliott's 4.2) and caught 39 passes for 337 yards for 8.6 yards per reception compared to Elliott's 47 catches for 287 yards (6.1).
All told, Pollard had 6.2 yards per touch versus 4.5 for Elliott.
Given those facts, it makes sense for the Cowboys to swerve toward a more even timeshare. The Cowboys may have paid Elliott a big contract to stick in town (six years, $90 million), but Pollard is simply too good to work as a backup. A "tandem," as McCarthy described it, appears to be a better approach than Elliott getting RB1 duties alone.
Dallas will open the season on Sunday when it hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.