Training Camp

Cowboys look to use Tony Pollard more as Ezekiel Elliott doesn't need to 'run the ball 25-30 times a game'

I scream, you scream, we all scream for the Cowboys to feed Zeke.

Ezekiel Elliott's bounce-back season is a prevailing narrative coming from Frisco, Texas, and Oxnard, California, but after the Cowboys were forced to live life without Dak Prescott and attempt to circumvent increased attention on Elliott, they've come to understand there's value in complementary pieces.

Into the room walks Tony Pollard, a 6-foot runner with legitimate spell back capabilities whom Dallas is also viewing as a possible threat in the passing game. Pollard had 101 carries last season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns as a secondary rushing option, and he spent some of OTAs taking reps at receiver.

Expanding Pollard's capabilities adds to the possibilities to involve Pollard in Dallas' offense, including in two-back sets that would make the Cowboys less predictable. Like Cleveland has incorporated Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, Dallas could do something similar with Elliott and Pollard.

"Your two-back schemes the last couple years have increased [in the NFL]," McCarthy said Thursday, via the team's official site. "You'll see it the next couple practices. We're going to see it [on defense] more than we have. Dan [Quinn] needs to see the two-back stuff."

It also would help McCarthy lighten Elliott's load throughout the season with the goal of keeping him fresh for the Cowboys' most important late-season games.

"We've got Tony Pollard, and Rico [Dowdle] has looked good," McCarthy said. "We've got some younger guys who can play and produce, so it's not necessary for Zeke to run the ball 25-30 times a game. When you get to December, January football, you want him to be in top form to be able to run the ball 25-30 times if needed."

To Elliott's credit, it appears as if he's properly prepared himself physically to carry a large share of the offensive load in 2021. After matching his career high in fumbles in 2020, Elliott has spent the offseason focusing on cutting down on turnovers while also getting in better shape to succeed in 2021.

If he's not relied upon as much as the Cowboys have in the past, it would theoretically make him that much more valuable to Dallas' offensive aspirations -- and that much more dangerous to opposing defenses.

An offense that trots out Dak Prescott, Elliott and Pollard along with an assortment of pass-catching options headlined by Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb becomes a rather imposing one, at least on paper. Dallas is already envisioning increased possibilities with more versatile weapons on the field at the same time.

"We need to do a little more of it," McCarthy said of utilizing two-back sets. "We need to line up and run the ball when we want to run the ball no matter what [the defense] is in, too. We need to have some more of that. We don't want to be where we're checking it all the time and just playing exclusively a one-back offense."

With Prescott returning from a significant injury, an increase in unpredictability and a decrease in reliance on standard offensive approaches will only help the Cowboys. It appears they're aware of the potential benefits and aren't wasting any time taking advantage of it.

Training camp is finally here! Be sure to check out NFL Network's extensive live coverage, including Inside Training Camp every day and highlighted by Training Camp: Back Together Saturday Fueled by Gatorade on July 31.

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