Truth be told, the Dallas Cowboys came into the 2022 season hoping to build on their running game.
The focal point of their game plan was going into the inaugural season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though they didn’t get the results in a 19-3 setback that also saw them lose quarterback Dak Prescott with a broken right thumb.
While reserve quarterback Cooper Rush made headlines thanks to his steady and surprising play leading the Cowboys to consecutive victories against the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Giants, the key to their attacking success was what the team planned to do since. its season.
Count on a running game with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard as a two-headed tandem.
The Cowboys rushed 27 times for 107 yards in a 20-17 victory against the Bengals that doesn’t even include 46 yards by Bullard on a shovel.
They then rushed for 176 yards in a 23-16 victory against the Giants. Pollard rushed 13 times for 105 yards, including 46 yards, and Elliott had 15 buggies for 73 yards.
“We talked about this in training camp,” said coach Mike McCarthy. “We needed to run the ball better. Most importantly, we needed to get more attempts on the board. We needed to stay committed to him. I think we definitely did that in the last couple of weeks.”
Running will be the focal point of the game plan against Washington on Sunday.
McCarthy said the plan will be the same when Prescott, who ran 4,449 yards and scored 37 touchdowns last season, returns either October 9 at the Los Angeles Rams or October 16 at the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I mean, Tony and Zeke are really special players for us,” McCarthy said. “I don’t see that we are changing.”
It definitely made life easier for Rush.
The Cowboys called 31 passes to 27 passes against the Bengals and it was 30 passes to 31 passes against the Giants. Elliott and Pollard only had 16 campaigns combined against the Buccaneers when the Cowboys fell behind and couldn’t convert the third points to stay in the field.
McCarthy said balance was the team’s winning formula as the running game allowed Rush to work clean pockets in the passing game while also chewing time to keep his defense off the field and resting.
“It starts with running football,” McCarthy said.
What has changed compared to years past and has been in the plan to go back to training camp is how the Cowboys use Elliott and Bullard.
They’re a true tandem in 2022, rather than putting former two-time race champion Elliot up front with the fast-paced Pollard considered the gear-shifting option that often earned the third series of the game.
They’re often on the field with the occasional Bullard lined up in the hole. Elliott played full-back against Pollard, who was finally recognized as one of the team’s best playmakers and arguably their most explosive weapon in attack.
“I think it’s a winning formula,” McCarthy said. “You have two great players. They need to touch the ball whether we throw it at them, throw it at them or hand it to them, it makes no difference to me personally.”
Elliott has 43 touches for 173 yards through three games, including 40 touches for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Pollard has 34 touches for 225 yards with a touchdown by land and one by air, while showing strength with 46 yards and 46 yard reception.
Sure, there are calls for Pollard to get a bigger part of the pregnancy because of his great playing ability. It should be noted that Pollard was on the field to close out the match against the Giants.
But the Cowboys love the current distribution and remain wary about wearing Pollard down, figuring he didn’t carry a full load of running back to high school.
The Cowboys want to keep him as fresh as possible so he can still get juice in his legs late in the games and later in the season.
“We want both guys to get the touch ups,” said attack coordinator Kellen Moore. “I think the more balance, the better week after week. There might be a game where one player goes a little higher than the other. It could be situational. That might be the way the spin works but we love getting the ball for these guys” .
Elliott distribution is best for both players and the team.
“One keeps both fresh,” Elliott said. “That’s an important thing, and they are two different running styles that you have to prepare for. They are used to one style of running and now here comes the other guy. Things have been working fine.”
How fresh is Elliott?
“I’m new. I don’t know how to explain it otherwise,” Elliott said. “I probably have had more touches per year at this point. My body feels really good.”
Elliott has averaged 21.47 lunge attempts per game since his rookie year. This number is 13.33 in 2022.
The best part about it is that Elliot and Pollard’s biggest fans are each other, allowing the Cowboys to use them side by side and trade in for noteworthy moments.
“You can start one guy into a series, knowing that the other guy is ready to appear there and some plays will determine who is in the game,” Moore said. “Maybe it’s a Tony or Zeke play and on this occasion we want them on the court together. I think these guys work really well together, and I think that’s the special part about that.
“They work together, and they know, ‘I need a little hit here. Enter the other man. They don’t have a problem when the other guy gets in there and they admit it to each other.”
Elliott is good with it because he thinks it’s the best way for the Cowboys to win.
And that’s all he cares about.
“All I worry about is winning football matches and I’m going to chase that ring,” Elliott said. “Do what we have to do. We stay committed to running and keep making those attempts, I think we will succeed.”
With Rush and when Prescott returns.