The Dallas Cowboys are rolling into the 2022 season with many familiar faces, including the team’s starting running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott is coming off his fourth season with 1000 rushing yards or more, but the pressure seems to be on the former Ohio State star. Fox Sports analyst Emmanuel Acho sent a warning to Zeke just a couple of weeks ago, mentioning his contract pressure as the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
Plus, Tony Pollard is waiting in the wings. Pollard has brought a dynamic burst to the Cowboys’ rushing offense, and the fourth-year RB averaged .9 yards more per rushing attempt than Zeke in 2021 (5.1 to 4.2.) Now, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen is predicting Zeke to feel Pollard’s presence even more in 2022.
On Sirius XM’s The Rich Eisen Show, Eisen discussed Elliott and Pollard, and also predicted New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley to finish the regular season with more yards than Zeke.
“They should give the touches to Pollard. Zeke is the guy that moves the pile. Zeke is the guy that steals your soul. Okay? Because he keeps coming at you. And going this whole business day. He likes to eat Okay, he’s the guy that can punch it in from the five yard line… Pollard’s the guy who can get it in from your own 35. So he’s got to touch the ball more. And that’s part of the reason why I think Zeke won’t get 1000 yards and it’s more likely that Saquon will because I think they’re going to use this guy.”
Pollard seems set for a bigger role with the Cowboys, and that adds a lot of credence to Eisen’s prediction.
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Pollard Explodes Into Space
Having two proven running backs at the NFL level is a major tool, but it’s even better when the two rushers are unique like Pollard and Zeke. As Eisen said, they have distinctly different skillsets.
However, Pollard’s big-play ability is what makes it difficult to give him the typical amount of touches for an NFL backup RB. Besides just the ground, his 719 rushing yards and 5.1 yards per attempt were complemented by 8.6 yards per reception in 2021, according to PFR.
NFL.com reporter Cynthia Frelund also highlighted an interesting stat that strengthens Pollard’s case even more as she labeled Pollard as Dallas’ most underappreciated player.
“Pollard’s 6.4 yards per rush outside the tackles in 2021 ranked second among backs with at least 50 attempts, per Next Gen Stats,” Frelund wrote. “His success as Dallas’ No. 2 back helped earn him PFF’s second-highest grade (90.3) among all RBs.”
At worst, Pollard appears to be an amazing complement to Zeke and that allows him to take advantage of defenses trying to catch up. On the other hand, the numbers seem to imply Pollard could break out even further.
Dak Prescott Backs Up Cowboys Star
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is known for keeping criticism of his teammates to a minimum, and his most recent comments on Zeke were no different.
After OTAs work last week, Prescott was asked about Elliott’s performance and status heading into 2022. To put it simply, the Dallas QB isn’t worried.
“He comes in like a pro each and every day and does that, so I expect his best,” Prescott said on May 27. “When you do that and do it with the (intent) that he does, he’s going to get better. When Zeke’s healthy, I don’t think there’s a better back.”
It’s what a quarterback is expected to say about his teammates, but it’s also backed by six seasons together and five Pro Bowl honors between them.