The Dallas Cowboys debuted a new offensive wrinkle amid Thursday’s Organized Team Activities.
During the open practice, reporters’ eyes alight, the Cowboys tried running back Tony Pollard at wide receiver, deploying the electrifying backup in various pass-catching drills — and impressing those who rubberstamped the (temporary) move.
“[He] looks very natural in space and alignments” head coach Mike McCarthy said of Pollard, via Brianna Dix of D210S. “[Defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn is looking at him as a receiver. That should tell you how he looks.”
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Dual-Threat Offensive Weapon
A 2019 fourth-round pick, Pollard has, albeit sparingly, proven his eye-catching rushing ability, posting 890 yards and six touchdowns on 187 carries (4.8 yards per carry) across his first 31 games. He boasts a second gear unlike that of Cowboys star RB Ezekiel Elliott, evident in his two-TD effort against the 49ers last December — a victory punctuated by Pollard’s 40-yard late-fourth-quarter housecall.
“They’re two different type backs,” Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said on Dec. 22. “…Zeke is a tremendous weapon for football because physicalness does have an impact and does wear down and does win when it can be a part of not making as many mistakes as we’ve made a lot of times (on offense) when we’ve seen that earlier this year.
“We’ve always frankly known that with Pollard that we had an alternative there that was another way to do it, but a good way to do it. They make quite a tandem.”
But Pollard has also displayed pass-catching chops, compiling 300 receiving yards and two TDs on 43 grabs, 13 of which were first-down conversions. As a collegian for the Memphis Tigers, he totaled nearly as many receptions (104) as rushing attempts (139) — and the same amount of scores (9) — over 40 games.
“Very good receiver out of the backfield; can be used on dumps, wheels or even split out as a wide receiver. Can be dangerous on jet sweep options,” draft expert Matt Miller said of Pollard in his 2019 scouting report.
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Much Ado About Nothing?
However exciting it is to imagine Pollard among the Cowboys’ league-best WR corps, he’s only seeing this extensive time out wide because that league-best WR corps isn’t perfectly intact at the moment.
“We have a few guys with nicks. Our numbers are down. We had a couple guys who were under the weather with allergies,” McCarthy said Thursday, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “But it’s also to give us the opportunity to rep those concepts with Tony.”
David Helman, in-house reporter for the team’s official website, added: “I don’t think I’d read too, too much into Tony Pollard getting WR reps. He did it in college, and there were 4 WRs sitting out of practice last week. Makes sense to get him reps doing different things, & they need bodies. Definitely fun. But not a huge story imo.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL