There’s a new No. 20 in town.
That would be Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard, who switched his jersey number from No. 36 to the digits made famous by Hall of Famer Mel Renfro.
Pollard hit the field in his new garb Monday, as the Cowboys began preparations for the regular season-opener against the New York Giants.
It was a number-change party in Dallas’ backfield, as veteran Alfred Morris moved from No. 23 to No. 32 and rookie Mike Weber switched from No. 40 to No. 28.
But it’s Pollard who stands to benefit, regardless of his number, from superstar Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout. The fourth-round draft pick and Memphis product shined this preseason with a team-leading 84 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (5.6 yards per tote), with a long run of 20 yards. He also chipped in three receptions for 19 yards.
The contingency plan calls for Pollard to assume Elliott’s lead-dog role — a plan they’re perfectly content executing.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ve been preparing for that,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones recently said of Elliott’s holdout stretching into the regular season, per Pro Football Talk. “That’s why we brought Alfred in. As we’ve said, we’ve been so pleasantly surprised, Pollard has been even better than we expected. We’re very comfortable with what we have there.
“. . .We’re comfortable with that group if that’s what it is. Obviously, we’re still going to be doing everything we can to do something with Zeke.”
As of this writing, after Dallas’ first Week 1 practice, Elliott and the Cowboys remain deadlocked in a contractual standoff, the former wanting record-setting money and the latter unwilling to accommodate.
Meaning it’s Pollard’s starting job, until it’s not.
“[He’s] done everything we’ve asked him to do as a runner, as a protector as a receiver,” head coach Jason Garrett said Monday.
Follow the Heavy on Cowboys Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Pollard Draws Praise from New York
The Giants no doubt are bracing for Elliott’s holdout to end at any time, and the two-time Pro Bowl back suiting up for Sunday’s rivalry showdown. But if he can’t (or won’t) go, and Pollard draws RB1 responsibilities, Big Blue knows it still has its hands full.
“He’s had an impact as a rookie,” Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said, via the New York Daily News. “We actually liked him during the draft. We had him on our board in a prominent position. But he’s done a good job. He’s fast, has got really good instincts, good collision balance, he can catch the ball. So he’s got what you’re looking for in a runner. And it appears from what I’ve seen on tape and from what they’re saying that they’re really fond of what he’s done.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL