Cowboys News: Tony Pollard Praised as Team Eyes Lighter Ezekiel Elliott Workload

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2019

Memphis running back Tony Pollard runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, March 1, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys plan to lighten running back Ezekiel Elliott's workload in 2019, and rookie fourth-round pick Tony Pollard figures to have a big hand in that.

According to Jori Epstein of USA Today, Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown stressed the importance of taking a bit off Elliott's plate to ensure he remains healthy and effective in 2019 and beyond:

"We understand what Zeke is to our football team and to our organization, to our success. It's important for us as an organization to maximize his ability to go out and help us win championships. The way to do that is take a little bit off him.

"It's just physics. Year after year with that type of workload, eventually, anyone's going to slow down. We're trying to preempt that and take care of him now."

Last season, Elliott led the NFL in carries (304), rushing yardage (1,434) and touches (381) en route to helping lead the Cowboys to an NFC East title. He also led the NFL in carries (322) and rushing yardage (1,631) as a rookie in 2016, and he finished with 354 touches.

If not for a six-game suspension in 2017, Elliott almost certainly would have carried the ball more than 300 times, as he finished with 242 totes in just 10 games.

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In only 40 career regular-season games, Elliott has carried the ball 868 times and touched it a total of 1,003 times, which is a significant workload for a player who is only 23 years old.

Aside from quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Rod Smith was the team's second-leading rusher last season with just 44 carries for 127 yards.

Smith is no longer on the roster, so the Cowboys are hoping that one of Pollard, 2019 seventh-round pick Mike Weber or 2016 sixth-round pick Darius Jackson can step up and lend some support to Zeke.

Pollard is perhaps the best option due to his versatility as a runner and pass-catcher. He spent time as both a running back and wide receiver at Memphis collegiately and finished last season with 1,010 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns on just 117 touches.

He makes the most of his opportunities, which is key since they may be few and far between with Elliott carrying the load.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones compares Pollard to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, and Brown believes Pollard is more than meets the eye: "I know people think he's going to be this gadget guy. He's more than that. He's bigger than what you think he is and he runs powerful for a guy you think is a gadget guy. I think he can do all our runs and more."

Pollard has some similarities to Cowboys gadget player Tavon Austin, but he has a better running back build at 6'0" and 210 pounds, which should allow him to handle the rigors of an NFL season.

The biggest key to Dallas' offensive success will remain Elliott and his ability to wear down opposing defenses, but if Pollard can offer a change of pace and keep Elliott fresh, Zeke should be even tougher to stop in the latter stages of games.