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Mailbag: 'Next Man Up' Abandoned at RB?


When Tony Pollard went down with an injury, why did the coaching staff abandon the "next man up" philosophy and essentially quit using the two-running-back formation in the game plan? I know Malik Davis isn't Pollard, but you've been preaching "next man up" all season. Why not at least try? Davis has flashed some talent in his limited exposure? – Truman Townzen/Roseville, CA

Nick: I think in theory it's a good question and something to ponder. But let's not forget the importance of practice. If these guys aren't practicing these plays, especially the young guys, it's going to be hard to run them efficiently against a defense like the 49ers. It's a short week as it is, so you know Malik Davis isn't getting a ton of snaps behind Pollard or Zeke. Also, the reason Pollard is on the field with Zeke is because of his unique skill set that not every running back can match. Pollard gives them a different dimension out there, and someone like Malik Davis just doesn't step in and fill the role. I agree, that you'd like for someone to come in and establish himself when a player is injured, but it's pretty unlikely a guy like Davis steps in and comes close to matching Pollard's production. And if Davis isn't quite up to speed as a pass-blocker against the rush, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to over-expose him. 

Kurt: I did find Ezekiel Elliott's quote after the game curious. He said, "When (Pollard) went down, we took all of our pony plays out of there; that's him and I on the field at the same time." Davis only saw three offensive snaps all game and the only time he came close to receiving a handoff the play was blown up. In truth, Davis probably wouldn't have made a huge difference as this game was going to rest on the shoulders of Dak Prescott no matter who was in the backfield. But Davis did average 4.2 yards per carry in limited action this season. Maybe give your next man up a shot? If nothing else, just having two running backs on the field together would seem worth trying at times to keep that tough 49ers defense guessing. Nick knows better than I do, but why they completely gave up on that part of the game plan, especially with the score still close, seems to be yet another perplexing question to come out of that season-ending loss.

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