FRISCO – Tony Pollard hears the cries of the people.
They want him to get more touches.
They want him to start so he can be utilized often on their fantasy football teams.
“I like it keep saying it,” the Cowboys running back said after Thursday’s Organized Team Activity practice from The Star.
Pollard finished the 2021 season setting career-highs in carries (130), rushing yards (719), catches (39), receiving yards (337), touches (169), yards after catch (321) and receiving first downs (15).
The fans and Pollard want more.
And the Cowboys are expected to tend to the wishes of both, but not at the expense of Ezekiel Elliott. He’s still a big deal around here as the starting running back.
Both running backs are needed in this offense.
When it comes to Pollard, becoming more of a runner and pass catcher is in his future plans as he enters a contract year.
If Pollard can produce better numbers in 2022 it increases his value not only with the Cowboys but around the league, too.
“I definitely feel like any opportunity I’m given, I’m going to do my best to make the most of it,” Pollard said. “The more I get, the more I can benefit the team.”
Pollard became the people’s champ last season. It was nothing personal against Elliott, but when he struggled due to a sprained ligament in his knee, fans yearned for more Pollard.
He’s a player who can catch the ball out of the backfield (career-high 8.6 yards per catch in 2021), lineup in the slot, lineup wide and just become that do-everything back for offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He also returned kickoffs, averaging a career-high 28.8 last season where he also returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Raiders.
Pollard also averaged 5.53 yards per rushing attempt, fifth most in the NFL and the third-highest mark in a single-season in franchise history.
Last year, he participated on 30.4% of the snaps, compared to Elliott’s 66.9%. Pollard might have picked up more than 374 snaps if not for missing two games with a torn Plantar Fascia that has since healed due to rest.
“I’m open to anything just being on the field, being able to make the most of my opportunities,” Pollard said. “If I have to lineup in the slot a little more, whatever it takes, I’m ready to do it.”
The Cowboys can take a cue from how the Saints use running back Alvin Kamara. Last season, Kamara, the starter, had a career-high 287 touches while averaging 33.8 receiving yards per game and 69.1 rushing yards per game.
Pollard said the running back position is becoming undervalued across the league. His belief if he can do more, whether it’s with the offense or as a returner, his value increases. It’s something he took note of when watching Kamara handle the chores of the Saints.
“The versatility he brings to the game, playing the running back, being a lot more than just the running back,” Pollard said. “(Some) look at the running back, its easily replaceable. So just being valuable in a lot of different areas (helps).”
Pollard has spoken with his agent about what the future could command. It’s doubtful Pollard receives a contract similar to Elliott’s. Remember the summer of 2019 when Elliott heldout to eventually sign a six-year, $90 million deal with $50 million in guarantees.
A contract of that magnitude wasn’t surpassed, yet, backs, Christian McCaffrey (four-year $64 million) and Kamara (five-year extension worth $75 million), signed new deals. McCaffrey and Kamra are utilized in similar ways as Pollard.
“I think he has that respect as a perimeter player,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “But if you break them down, as defenses have done and will continue to focus on, you look at (Pollard’s) route tree. So we’ve got to be in tune with that. Are we just going to play him out there and run a couple of things or is he going to be a legitimate receiver threat?”
Pollard and the Cowboys’ fanbase are ready.
“The best is all you can do,” Pollard said. “You’re playing running back, receiver, kick returner, punt returner. It’s just that much harder to replace you.”
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