Jones spoke on, and strongly refuted, the notion that impressive second-year backup Tony Pollard could cut into Elliott’s carries over the remainder of the season.
“Tony’s not a Johnny come lately to our appreciation for what he can bring to us. It always was exponential his potential here to help us, not though, let me emphasize, not though, at the diminished times we get the ball in the hands of Zeke or get Zeke involved in the offense in a way that he influences the offense so we can make big plays,” he said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. “All of this is all around what we’re trying to do with our key spot at quarterback. I would say no in answer to any role that Pollard is being considered that would diminish anything that we’re doing with Zeke.”
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This idea evidently sprung to life following Dallas’ Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh in which Pollard, already one of the league’s best “handcuffs,” proved to have the fresher legs, leading the club with 57 yards on nine carries (6.3 YPC). Elliott needed 18 attempts to achieve 51 yards, and although he helped move the chains on numerous occasions, the Pro Bowler was reduced to an unflashy plodder.
Through nine weeks for the 2-7 Cowboys, Elliott’s converted 150 attempts into 572 yards (3.8 YPC) and five TDs, adding 238 air yards and one score on 36 catches. He’s yet to cross the century mark in a game this season; his longest run thus far went for 24 yards. The biggest blight, though, has been Elliott’s fumbling issues; five altogether, four lost.
Pollard, meanwhile, is averaging a healthy 4.4 yards per tote, 31.91% first-down carry rate, and hasn’t coughed up the ball. All on a paltry 152 offensive snaps — hence the moderate groundswell to increase his usage.
The argument boils down to simple economics. Pollard, a 2019 fourth-round pick, is taking home just $575,000 in base salary this season. Whereas Elliott, whom Jones made the NFL’s highest-paid RB, counts $10.9 million against the 2020 salary cap in the second year of his record-setting $90 million extension.
For that reason, and despite the state of the injury-ruined team, Elliott has inarguably disappointed. But it’s also the reason why Jones won’t detrench his gargantuan if questionable investment from no-doubt duties.
He paid him, so he might as well play him [insert “shrug” emoji].
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Cowboys Ripped for Making ‘Big Error’ with Zeke Deal
Underscoring a cursed 2020 for Dallas is the poor return on investment they’re getting from Elliott, whose cumbersome contract was named by Bleacher Report as the Cowboys’ worst this season.
“Not all of the Cowboys’ woes this season can be attributed to Prescott’s absence after the signal-caller suffered a season-ending ankle fracture, but without him, the offense has plummeted to 26th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average),” wrote BR’s Alex Ballentine.
“Elliott isn’t doing much to soothe the pain behind a beat-up offensive line. He’s averaging 1.8 yards after contact, which is 26th in the league. Tony Pollard, playing in the same offense, is averaging 1.9 and will only cost the team $841,945 this season and just over $1 million in each of the next two years.
Elliott is a great player, but a running back has to be transcendent to earn that kind of money. Elliott hasn’t proved to be that this year, and the club is going to need money to keep Prescott and fix the other holes on its roster.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL