Offseason OTAs afford clubs time to tinker ahead of the season. Sometimes that includes moving players around to get a look at other positions.
Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy noted Thursday that running back Tony Pollard has been getting some work at receiver this offseason.
“It gives us the opportunity to rep those concepts with Tony that we didn’t do a whole lot of last year,” McCarthy said. “He’s natural. He looks very natural. Tony’s an exceptional athlete, looks very comfortable in the space alignments and assignments that we ask him to do. (Defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn’s treating him as a receiver, so I think that tells you how he looks.”
We shouldn’t read too much into Pollard getting reps in at receiver. The Cowboys were missing several wideouts during practices, which partly explains the RB’s reps outside.
“We have a few guys with nicks,” McCarthy noted. “Our numbers are down. We had a couple guys who were under the weather with allergies.”
Still, Pollard potentially getting some plays at receiver would be another avenue for the dynamic playmaker to see the field. Last season, the RB played just 36 snaps out wide (10 percent of his 353 total) and 15 in the slot (4 percent), per Next Gen Stats.
Buried behind Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Pollard generated 435 rushing yards and four TDs on 101 carries last year while netting 28 receptions for 193 yards and a receiving score. With Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup at receiver, Pollard’s path to more playing time outside isn’t exactly wide open unless injury strikes. Yet, owning the ability to do more outside of the backfield offers the potential for additional playing time.
McCarthy said that cross-training Pollard at multiple positions is part of a larger plan to get all of his players better acquainted with a diverse array of locations.
“We’ve been making a conscious effort to make sure the receivers play all four positions on offense: inside, outside, the 3 spot, the 3 by 1,” McCarthy said before revealing Pollard had been working as a wideout. “Even Tony Pollard’s been playing some receiver, as far as some of the things we’re asking him to do, moving him around. Just trying to expand everybody’s understanding conceptually in the offense.”
Given his big-play ability, the Cowboys wanting to find ways to get Pollard on the field isn’t a surprise. Even if the OTA work stemmed from missing other receivers, it underscores what should be a concerted effort for McCarthy to expand Pollard’s role in 2021.
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