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Nick at Nite

Nick at Nite: Is the running game close?


FRISCO, Texas — Even with the continued offensive success over the course of the last four-to-five games, one continued issue arises each week: the running game.

The passing game has been just fine since the bye week, as Dak Prescott has arguably stacked together his best stretch of games of his career. The early questions about the Texas Coast passing game have been erased: consistent production, integration of multiple weapons, preventing turnovers.

But with Tony Pollard entering week 12 with less rushing yards per game, less yards per rush and less receiving yards per game than when he was the complimentary back in 2022, questions and concern still shine bright within the running game.

When Mike McCarthy has been asked about the lack of production, he's insisted more volume being the solution for Pollard. However, the numbers don't reflect that.

  • Week 6: 15 carries for 30 yards
  • Week 8: 12 carries for 53 yards
  • Week 9: 12 carries for 51 yards
  • Week 10: 15 carries for 55 yards
  • Week 11: 12 carries for 61 yards

Another early conversation point was the fact that the five starting offensive linemen hadn't had consistent time together. However, now that chemistry is starting to flow up front — and it's showing in the pass game with back-to-back games without a sack allowed — the production in the run game remains the same.

Tony Pollard is a capable starting running back. I fully believe that. I also believe that this Texas Coast system can help him succeed. The protection sets and the variance and creativity that's been implemented in recent weeks — such as integrating Hunter Luepke as a lead blocker, getting Pollard out in space and trying different things such as the Wildcat — will help to pave lanes for Pollard.

On top of that, Rico Dowdle has begun to step up as a capable and violent runner that is a different presence than Pollard out of the backfield. More Dowdle carries allows for even more variance and volume.

As all of these things start to fall into place, I think it's showing us that consistent production in the run game is close.

We saw a glimpse in Carolina of both what has happened all season and what could happen the rest of the way.

Pollard came out the gates with 34 yards on three carries. However, the next eight carries yielded just six yards before a physical 22-yard touchdown capped off an up-and-down day.

That run was reminiscent of what we saw last season from Pollard. Finding a squeezing lane between the tackles — allowed by brutal blocking up front — and bouncing off multiple tacklers before generating an explosive play in the run game.

With a tough stretch of opponents awaiting in December, getting it going on the ground will be crucial. Tony Pollard knows it. Mike McCarthy knows it. Dak Prescott knows it.

An opportunity against the Commanders allows one more fluid opportunity to try things in the run game against an inexperienced defensive line before stout defensive fronts line up opposite of the Cowboys.

So if you take away anything, expect volume on Thursday. Expect variance. And expect production that can set the tone for what's to come. I think it's coming, but who am I?

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