Why Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott has been splitting touches with Tony Pollard so far in 2021

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Ezekiel Elliott entered the 2021 NFL season averaging 19.9 carries per sport throughout his five-year NFL profession. He twice led the league in whole dashing makes an attempt and dashing yards, and in every of his first three seasons, he led the league in dashing yards per sport.

That mentioned, Elliott’s stats by two weeks in 2021 have raised some eyebrows. The Cowboys’ star has averaged simply 13.5 carries per sport, and he has ceded snaps to his teammate Tony Pollard.

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Considering that Elliott is coming into the primary season of a six-year, $90 million extension he signed with the Cowboys again in 2019, the timing of his lower in touches is receiving scrutiny. However, Elliott laughed off criticism of Dallas’ utilization of him by two video games.

“You hear it, but what really matters is what’s going on in this building. They’re not the ones signing the checks, they’re not the ones sending the wires, so I don’t think it matters,” Elliott mentioned with fun Thursday, per

Elliott is true, however why have his touches decreased so sharply? And is there a path for Pollard to overhaul him in a bigger position? Here’s every part you must know in regards to the Cowboys’ backfield by two weeks of the 2021 NFL season.

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Why Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are splitting carries

Elliott and Pollard sharing touches and taking part in time is all a part of the Cowboys’ backfield plan, as Elliott defined. The workforce needs to maintain each gamers “fresh”, and Elliott would not appear to thoughts the bit of additional relaxation.

“We feed off each other. We keep each other fresh,” Elliott mentioned, per “We want to see the best in each other. We do everything we can to push each other, to challenge each other, to make each other better, maybe if there’s something I could help him that’s going to help his game or something he can help me that’s going to help my game. We just push each to become better players.”

That freshness ought to assist Elliott. He confirmed some indicators of slowing down final season, as he recorded a career-low 4.0 yards per carry and 6.5 yards per reception. Some of that was as a result of Cowboys’ abysmal quarterback state of affairs after Dak Prescott’s harm, however even when Prescott was wholesome, Elliott was averaging simply 4.1 yards per carry.

So far in 2021, Elliott has averaged simply 3.9 yards per carry, however that features a sport in opposition to the Buccaneers’ fourth-ranked run protection. In a bigger pattern measurement, that quantity ought to enhance.

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Elliott additionally acknowledged that his downhill model is completely different than Pollard, who he described as “faster” and “shifty.” As such, mixing them up helps the Cowboys’ offense give opposing defenses completely different appears to be like.

“I think it helps a lot just because we have different run styles,” Elliott mentioned. “We’re going to run different runs differently and the defense is going to have to fit those runs differently. So if they get used to me pounding it for 10 plays and then TP comes in and they’re used to fitting the runs that way.

“But TP is a sooner, extra shifty again, so he may match a run slightly completely different. It retains the protection guessing. It switches it up. It’s a change of tempo, and as you guys noticed, it really works nicely.”

Indeed, it has worked for the Cowboys, and Pollard’s stats through two games have been particularly impressive.

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Tony Pollard’s stats vs. Ezekiel Elliott’s stats

So far, Pollard has been the more efficient of the two Dallas backs. He ranks No. 1 in the NFL in yards per carry among running backs with 10+ carries. He also grades out as the NFL’s No. 1 running back, per Pro Football Focus (though he hasn’t met the minimum snap threshold to qualify for PFF’s official leaderboard). 

Elliott has been less efficient than Pollard, but he has still been productive in Dallas’ offense. He has also played a key role in pass protection, as he has officially played nine pass-blocking snaps compared to just four for Pollard.

Here’s a look at how the two running backs compare in each major statistical category.

PlayerPercent of snaps performedCarriesRushing yardsYards per carryRushing TDsReceptionsReceiving yardsReceiving TDs
Ezekiel Elliott78.1271043.914320
Tony Pollard28.1161237.717600

Again, it is a small pattern measurement and it is price noting that 11 of Elliott’s carries got here in opposition to a stout Buccaneers’ run protection whereas Pollard had simply three carries in opposition to  them. However, Pollard has definitely put himself on the map with his manufacturing so far this season. As lengthy as he continues to provide at this clip, he’ll take some touches away from Elliott.

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Why Ezekiel Elliott continues to be the Cowboys’ lead again

The Cowboys nonetheless seem to view Elliott because the workforce’s lead again. After all, he has performed practically triple the quantity of snaps that Pollard has (Elliott has performed 114 whereas Pollard has logged 41).

Pollard has acquired a contact on 56 p.c of his snaps whereas Elliott has on simply 27.2 p.c of his. What does that imply? It appears that the Cowboys want to make use of Elliott extra as a decoy off play-action or as a go blocker than Pollard. That is smart since Elliott has been a profitable go blocker in 2021, as many noticed in opposition to the Buccaneers in Week 1.

“Every play I’m given a job. My job is to do my job to the best of its ability,” Elliott said after that sport. “I take a lot of pride in being well-rounded. Blitz pickup is big for a running back. You have to keep the quarterback safe and untouched.”

Prescott is coming back from an harm that price him a lot of the 2021 NFL season. As lengthy as Elliott continues to maintain him protected, he’ll proceed to out-snap Pollard on a weekly foundation. Just do not be shocked if the truly touches are cut up as Dallas appears to be like to get Elliott some down time and make the most of Pollard’s explosive potential.

That ought to assist the veteran Elliott keep more energizing deeper into the 2021 marketing campaign.

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