Dallas running back Tony Pollard impresses Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Dallas running back Tony Pollard, the starter at running back Saturday, hit the holes quick to gain 42 yards on five carries and caught one pass for 9 yards in limited action.
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Finding the solid-gold nuggets in a preseason sea of professional football players — most of whom are in a mad chase for a roster spot — can be difficult. Most of the starters and stars are not playing or are only in for a handful of snaps.
But it was easy to spot some thoroughbreds Saturday during the Dallas Cowboys’ 14-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Aloha Stadium.
Take, for instance, the case of Tony Pollard. Throughout the preseason, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has spoken highly of the Cowboys’ rookie running back, a fourth-round draft pick out of Memphis. Doing well in training camp is one thing, but shining brightly in a game is quite another.
Pollard, the starter at running back Saturday, hit the holes quick to gain 42 yards on five carries and caught one pass for 9 yards in limited action. More importantly, he was the catalyst in the team’s 97-yard drive that he capped by wriggling into the end zone from 14 yards out for an early 7-0 lead.
Jones’ bright blue eyes twinkled and his grin widened when a pack of reporters on the field after the game asked for his thoughts on the team’s situation at running back.
He said, “Zeke who?” and that was followed by a chorus of laughs. He was referring to Ezekiel Elliot, the star running back who is holding out in a contract dispute.
Jones was certainly kidding, and then he gave a rosy look into the future.
“If (Pollard) continues this in the next few weeks, he’s going to be right in the middle of it early,” Jones said. “That will really complement what we’re doing with Zeke. Not replace it. We’re not trying to get cute here. Complement him. I picture those guys within the same sets and that’s really going to give those defenses fits. (Pollard) knows exactly what to do and he knows how to do it. He goes out there and plays to that level.”
On the path upward in the NFL, Pollard, who is known to his teammates as TP Playmaker (a reverse of his Playmaker TP Instagram handle), hasn’t let the success so far go to his head.
“We had a good drive as a whole, going 97 yards,” he said. “The O-line did great. It was really open. Luckily I got into the end zone.”
Pollard was seen out there on special teams as well.
“Whatever they need me to do so we can be a better team in the future,” he said. “I’m trying to be all over the field. I like to keep a chip on my shoulder and remember where I came from. I wasn’t expected to be the player I am now. I just gotta keep that same mind-set and keep working.”
Officially, on the depth chart, Pollard is behind Darius Jackson, and if and when Elliott comes back, he’ll be behind him, too.
Devin Smith, a Cowboys wide receiver who scored the winning touchdown on an over-the-shoulder catch of a Cooper Rush pass, is working on what is looking like a fantastic comeback. Taken by the New York Jets out of Ohio State in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Smith has been constantly battling injuries and didn’t play at all in 2018.
In two preseason games, he has six catches for 78 yards (three for 24 Saturday) and is gunning to make the 53-man roster.
“It was a simple fade route and Cooper put it right where it needed to be,” Smith said. “It was up to me to finish the play.
“(Making the roster) is out of my control, but I’m so thankful to be back in this game after everything that’s happened. It was tough last year — every Sunday, Thursday and Monday night, just watching other teams play and me not being on a team. It was definitely tough, but it motivated me to keep working and I’m trying to take advantage of this opportunity.”