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Progress Report: Pollard Earned His Added Touches


(Editor's Note: NFL rosters change wildly from year to year. This year will be no different, as the Cowboys seek to upgrade their roster via free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 6-10 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of will evaluate those players who are already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we'll continue the series with running back Tony Pollard.)

The Good: Pollard built on his reputation as a playmaker in 2020. In a season when the offense had to turn to four different starting quarterbacks and injuries depleted their offensive line, the Cowboys turned to Pollard's quickness when they could. The young running back rushed 101 times for 435 yards and four touchdowns, while managing 193 receiving yards and a touchdown as well. Starting for an injured Ezekiel Elliott in a Week 14 matchup against San Francisco, Pollard combined for 132 total yards and two touchdowns. He also returned 32 kickoffs for a total of 766 yards.

The Bad: There was a costly fumble on a kickoff early in the season against Seattle that not only changed the momentum, but led to safety in an eventual loss. But the biggest dilemma in regards to Pollard, and the source of frustration for so many Cowboy fans, is that in a backup role, it's difficult to gauge the full extent of his potential. He had a higher yards per rush average than Elliott on 143 less rushes. He has the versatility to break off big runs and his most important asset might be his receiving skills out of the backfield. But Elliott is on a hefty contract and has a longer track record of wearing defenses down. As long as Pollard is starting games on the sideline, fans will just have to hope that he can make a lot happen in limited opportunities.

Best of 2020: While Pollard's best game might have come in a start against San Francisco, his best play of the season actually came in a game that Elliott started against the Minnesota Vikings. With the Cowboys down four in the fourth quarter, Pollard entered a drive that had already involved Elliott. The Vikings defense, perhaps still considering the power of Elliott, was unprepared for the speed of Pollard, who took a handoff 42 yards for a touchdown.

Contract Consideration: Pollard is entering his third season and is halfway through his four-year rookie contract. He should be on the roster for the next two seasons. The Cowboys are getting terrific value out of the fourth round pick they used to draft him, and they'll want to continue to utilize him in whatever ways they're able to because he's likely to command a more substantial deal after his initial contract with Dallas is completed.

What's Next: The Cowboys will likely enter another training camp trying to figure out how to get Pollard the ball as often as possible without starting him at running back. More first downs will mean more opportunities for both running backs to touch the ball, so the team has to be hoping that a healthy offensive line and stable quarterback situation will make Elliott and Pollard more dangerous as a duo. The team could experiment with having both teams on the field at the same time. Otherwise, expect Pollard to continue to be the team's primary kickoff returner as a way to utilize his speed.

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