The 26-year-old running back earned his first Pro Bowl selection after the 2022 season because of a career-high 1,378 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns. He topped 1,000 rushing yards for the first time, and 75% of his scoring was on the ground with nine rushing touchdowns. Despite Pollard suffering a fractured fibula in the Cowboys' season-ending NFC divisional round playoff defeat at the San Francisco 49ers, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completely forgot about Pollard's injury while practicing alongside of him in training camp because of how smooth the running back's rehabilitation process has gone.
"He's [Tony Pollard] been the same guy since he was drafted, and the year he was drafted  was the year Zeke held out," Prescott said at training camp in Oxnard, California on Thursday. "Being able to come in then and have such a huge role early in training camp to take all the reps, to pass protect, and to essentially be an every-down back in his first training camp to when Zeke came back, they could get into a duo-tandem type of back rotation. Now, him being able to take this step and have the starting role, he's a true professional. He takes care of his body, he leads by example, and he's the perfect pro for guys to watch his approach. Even coming off of an injury, you don't even think about that, and it's a credit to how he approached his rehab and how he goes about his game. TP is a hell of a back, a hell of a player, and he's going to have another huge year."
Pollard already being at essentially full health is a critical development for the Silver and Blue because when healthy, Pollard is as dynamic with the football in his hands as anyone in the entire NFL. His 5.9 yards per touch led the league among players with at least 200 touches in 2022. Just as notable is that with the Cowboys releasing Ezekiel Elliott -- one of their franchise leaders whose 3.9 yards per touch was dead last in the league among players with at least 200 touches last season -- it's Tony time in Dallas. Despite the contrast in productivity a year ago, Elliott, who was on a six-year, $90 million contract, received 16 more touches than Pollard.
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Pollard's backfield mates are now the undrafted Malik Davis, the undrafted Rico Dowdle, 2023 sixth-round pick and journeyman Ronald Jones. All of those factors have Cowboys offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer as confident as he can be in Pollard's status as Dallas' clear-cut RB1, even with the injury last postseason.
"The game has definitely changed and even when we had two or three big backs like Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene [when Schottenheimer was the New York Jets offensive coordinator from 2006-2011] and Kevan Barlow, but no one can do it by themselves," Schottenheimer said on Thursday. "It's too physical a game, but Tony is ready to running back number one. He's ready to be the guy. There is nothing we will shy away from on a scheme standpoint with him. Like everybody, there are going to be things he's more comfortable doing, but I have zero concerns about his body type with anything we're doing. I just love the explosive playmaker he is. I love the way he works in practice. There's a quiet confidence about him that you feel. You also feel his speed whether he's running a toss play toward the sideline or a running a route, you feel his speed. It's real. I think there's no question in my he's ready for this role."
San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl running back Christian McCaffrey totaled 1,880 scrimmage yards, 502 more than Pollard's 1,378, while ranking second in yards per touch (5.7) behind the Cowboys rusher (5.9). McCaffrey had 97 more touches than Pollard (329 to 232) in 2022. If Pollard can maintain a similar yards per touch average on a higher workload, he should be able to fetch one of the bigger running back contracts of the last few years next offseason after performing like one of the NFL's top five running backs in 2023.