OXNARD, Calif. — Much is made about running back Tony Pollard's ability to play in the passing game. However, the Dallas Cowboys have to be practical about it.
The former 2019 fourth-rounder from Memphis has made a name for himself carrying the football in the NFL as evident by his career 5.1 yards per carry and perceived burst when compared to starter Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys know that Pollard can be a matchup problem in the passing game, but offensive coordinator Kellen Moore cautions that he must be prudent with Pollard's talents.
"I think there is certainly a balance for how much you utilize him as far as workload," Moore told reporters on Aug. 3. "I think there is a balancing act to that. You don’t want him to play slot receiver and run 50-yard routes and then ask him to play running back after five or six of those. So, I think there is definitely a balancing act to that."
Last season, Pollard caught a career-high 39 passes for 337 yards, but he didn't score any receiving touchdowns for the first time in his career.
"I think that’s part of the testing during training camp is to test him out there in space, test him in the backfield, his workload, how many reps we throw him in in a particular period, and just kind of keep playing with that and we’ll find where his role is best situated," Moore said.
In college, when Pollard was at Memphis, more times than not he was listed as a receiver on the depth chart. As a Tiger, Pollard's career statistics were skewed toward the receiving game as he had 104 catches for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns compared to 139 carries for 941 yards and nine touchdowns through 40 collegiate games.
"Certainly at Memphis that was his primary position – slot receiver – and he would go into the backfield," Moore said. "That was his secondary role. And, so, there is a ton of it on film. A lot of it is coming back to him. I think he does have more than just that. He’s not going to run the running back route tree, the quick game, and just kind of the completion plays."
As the Cowboys stretch the field vertically with Pollard, they have to be careful not to wear out their complementary back.
"I think that will be a huge advantage for him to put people in conflict of how they want to handle him," Moore said.
Do you think the Cowboys will be able to get the best of both worlds with Pollard in 2022? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.
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