The Cowboys have officially entered the bye week, and to say it is much-needed would be an understatement. Few teams in the NFL have experienced the type of injuries the Cowboys have dealt with all year, especially to key positions such as the quarterback.
As the team gets the weekend off, let's dive into some pressing questions that surround this team and the final seven games of the schedule.
Today, we begin the five-part series with a hot topic around the most high-profile position.
Mickey Spagnola: Let's remember Zeke gutted up against the Steelers after seriously being limited in practice all week. Some of the beauty in Pollard's recent success is the one-two punch in the running game. Teams get used to the powerful Elliott ramming the ball down their throats, and then here comes Pollard, the change-up back, and suddenly his quickness catches them off-guard. Might get diminishing returns by increasing his snaps.
Rob Phillips: I wrote about this in my 3 & Out column last week: I think they need more touches for both players, to be honest. The run game just hasn't been enough of a factor with the deficits they've had, partially due to the offense's own turnovers. When backup quarterbacks are in the lineup, balance takes on a new level of importance. Pollard has earned more touches the way he's been playing, but I also think Zeke does things that go somewhat unnoticed: dirty runs against stacked fronts and steady pass protection. The offense has topped 130 rushing yards the last two games and they need to lean on it moving forward to help open up those chunk passing plays.
David Helman: It's dramatic and unnecessary to try to bench Ezekiel Elliott, but yes Tony Pollard is proving he deserves a larger workload. Pollard is averaging 17 snaps and just four carries per game, and I think it's fair to say both of those numbers should go up based on what we've seen the last few weeks. This is a team that runs the ball 24 times per week, so again – this isn't about benching Zeke. But for the time being, I'm definitely in favor of making this a more even rotation.
Kyle Youmans: I think there is a good possibility that the margin of carries between the two will begin to close pretty quickly. Pollard is more well equipped, style-wise, to run behind this patch-work offensive line. Elliott still has a role and will continue to wear down a defense. And should there be a point in the next seven games you need to put a game on ice, then Zeke is still that sort of back. But the way that Pollard and explode through a smaller gap, and navigate through some chaos behind the line of scrimmage? He needs to have more carries.
Nick Eatman: I don't think there's anything wrong with the running back rotation. Zeke is the starter and he gets those "muddy" yards as Kellen Moore put it this week. Pollard comes in and provides a change of pace. Now, the frequency in how often Pollard comes in has changed and rightfully so. He's starting to get mixed in even more and I bet Zeke even appreciates that. In the past, if the Cowboys ran the ball about 25 times, the ratio was something like 20-5 for Zeke. I think I'd prefer it being closer to 17-8 or even 15-10 depending on well Pollard is running it. What I'd really want to see is more two-back sets where they both can play together, giving the defense even more exotic looks to get ready for.