FRISCO, Texas – Two weeks into his Cowboys tenure, fourth-round pick Tony Pollard already has perceived labels.
Third-down back. Change-of-pace back. Gadget guy.
The Cowboys don’t buy any of them.
“He’s more than that,” running backs coach Gary Brown said.
The former Memphis star does offer versatility at the running back position. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry over three seasons. He also had 114 career catches (including 49 last season) with nine touchdowns. And he returned a whopping seven kickoffs for touchdowns.
While Ezekiel Elliott remains the focal point on offense, the Cowboys are committed to upgrading the depth behind the league’s rushing champ. They also drafted Mike Weber, more of a traditional back at Ohio State, in the seventh round.
But they believe Pollard is fully capable of spelling Elliott, too.
"We got a little bit of the impression at the Senior Bowl. He ran the ball between the tackles a little bit more than he had,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “When we drafted him, there wasn't a sense that he wasn't a complete back. We feel like we have seen on tape him do a lot of different things.”
There are also misconceptions about Pollard’s frame, probably due in part to his do-everything role at Memphis. The Cowboys list him at 6-0, 210 pounds – hardly an ‘undersized’ back.
“If you looked at him, he’s bigger than what you think he is. And he runs powerful for a guy that you think is a gadget guy,” Brown said. “I think he can do all our runs. He can do a lot more, too. We can put him anywhere in the passing game and he can be effective.”
On draft weekend, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones stopped short of directly comparing Pollard to Saints Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara but said Pollard could offer a similar skill set to the Cowboys’ offense.
The 22-year-old rookie agrees.
“I wouldn’t just compare myself to him, but I would say me and him are similar in ways that we play,” he said. “Just being able to do more than one thing: line up in the backfield at running back, mismatches with linebackers, running routes out of the backfield and making plays on special teams.
“They really like my running back aspect part of the game. But they also know it would be limiting me just to be a running back. So they said they would do a good job of just using me all over the field.”