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Why Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott has been splitting touches with Tony Pollard to this point 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 stated, Elliott’s stats by way of 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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Contemplating that Elliott is getting 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. Nevertheless, Elliott laughed off criticism of Dallas’ utilization of him by way of two video games.

“You hear it, however what actually issues is what is going on on on this constructing. They don’t seem to be those signing the checks, they are not those sending the wires, so I do not suppose it issues,” Elliott stated with amusing Thursday, per Cowboys.com.

Elliott is true, however why have his touches decreased so sharply? And is there a path for Pollard to overhaul him in a bigger function? Here is the whole lot it’s good to know concerning the Cowboys’ backfield by way of 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 group needs to maintain each gamers “recent”, and Elliott does not appear to thoughts the bit of additional relaxation.

“We feed off one another. We hold one another recent,” Elliott stated, per Cowboys.com. “We need to see the perfect in one another. We do the whole lot we are able to to push one another, to problem one another, to make one another higher, perhaps if there’s one thing I may assist him that is going to assist his sport or one thing he might help me that is going to assist my sport. We simply push every to turn out to be higher gamers.”

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. A few of that was as a result of Cowboys’ abysmal quarterback scenario after Dak Prescott’s harm, however even when Prescott was wholesome, Elliott was averaging simply 4.1 yards per carry.

To this point in 2021, Elliott has averaged simply 3.9 yards per carry, however that features a sport towards 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 “quicker” and “shifty.” As such, mixing them up helps the Cowboys’ offense give opposing defenses completely different appears.

“I believe it helps lots simply because we have now completely different run kinds,” Elliott stated. “We’ll run completely different runs otherwise and the protection goes to have to suit these runs otherwise. So in the event that they get used to me pounding it for 10 performs after which TP is available in they usually’re used to becoming the runs that method.

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

Certainly, it has labored for the Cowboys, and Pollard’s stats by way of two video games have been notably spectacular.

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

To this point, Pollard has been the extra environment friendly of the 2 Dallas backs. He ranks No. 1 within the NFL in yards per carry amongst working backs with 10+ carries. He additionally grades out because the NFL’s No. 1 working again, per Professional Soccer Focus (although he hasn’t met the minimal snap threshold to qualify for PFF’s official leaderboard). 

Elliott has been much less environment friendly than Pollard, however he has nonetheless been productive in Dallas’ offense. He has additionally performed a key function in go safety, as he has formally performed 9 pass-blocking snaps in comparison with simply 4 for Pollard.

Here is a take a look at how the 2 working backs evaluate in every main statistical class.

Participant P.c of snaps performed Carries Dashing yards Yards per carry Dashing TDs Receptions Receiving yards Receiving TDs
Ezekiel Elliott 78.1 27 104 3.9 1 4 32 0
Tony Pollard 28.1 16 123 7.7 1 7 60 0

Once more, it is a small pattern measurement and it is value noting that 11 of Elliott’s carries got here towards a stout Buccaneers’ run protection whereas Pollard had simply three carries towards  them. Nevertheless, Pollard has actually put himself on the map along with his manufacturing to this point this season. So long as he continues to provide at this clip, he’ll take some touches away from Elliott.

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Why Ezekiel Elliott remains to be the Cowboys’ lead again

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

Pollard has obtained a contact on 56 % of his snaps whereas Elliott has on simply 27.2 % of his. What does that imply? Evidently the Cowboys choose 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 towards the Buccaneers in Week 1.

“Each play I’m given a job. My job is to do my job to the perfect of its potential,” Elliott stated after that sport. “I take numerous delight in being well-rounded. Blitz pickup is huge for a working again. You need to hold the quarterback protected and untouched.”

Prescott is getting back from an harm that price him many of the 2021 NFL season. So long as Elliott continues to maintain him protected, he’ll proceed to out-snap Pollard on a weekly foundation. Simply do not be stunned if the really touches are cut up as Dallas appears to get Elliott some down time and make the most of Pollard’s explosive potential.

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

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