Using McCarthy’s history to predict Pollard’s workload with Cowboys in ’23
2023 is a new era for Dallas Cowboys football. Former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is now with the Chargers in Los Angeles, and for the first time since his arrival in 2020, the Cowboys’ offense is Mike McCarthy’s to run how the head coach sees fit.
After three seasons of compromise, both offensive minds are set to do things their way for their respective teams. In Dallas, that means McCarthy is the offseason architect, game planner, and play-caller. Brian Schottenheimer will work a supporting role on offense, but at the end of the day, this is McCarthy’s show.
After his infamous, “I want to run the damn ball,” comments, speculation surrounds the running game.
Ezekiel Elliott is now gone and Tony Pollard is the unquestioned top dog in the RB pecking order. Assuming he’s 100 percent recovered from injury (and all indications are he will be by training camp), how much of a workload can be expected for the 26-year-old back?
Based on McCarthy’s last two seasons as coach for the Packers (2017-2018), we can see how McCarthy likes to divide his carries amongst his RBs. Understanding injuries, depth of talent, and other circumstances inevitably play a role in determining workload, we can hone in on how he may divide the rushing attempts in Dallas in 2023.
At face value, the Packers’ RB corps is comparable to the one in Dallas.
Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery seem to be a similarly constructed/talented trio to the Cowboys’ Pollard, Ronald Jones and Deuce Vaughn. There are size differences between the two squads but the roles and talent are fair comps.
In 2017, RB1 Williams led the unit with 153 rushing attempts, RB2 Aaron Jones carried the ball 81 times and RB3 Montgomery 71 times.
In 2018, things got tricky because Jones started the season on the suspended list and ended the season on injured reserve. Additionally, McCarthy was fired after Week 12. Therefore the most accurate way to assess his RB rotation in 2018 was to look at games both RBs played and McCarthy coached.
With that understanding, Jones (his new RB1) averaged 11.2 carries per game while Williams averaged just 5.1. Montgomery, the RB3, contributed 3.2 over that same span of games.
While game circumstances and individual talent clearly play a part in how this lands, McCarthy's last two seasons in GB offer an idea as to how he divides his workload amongst his RBs* #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/fmpDYPyUBG
— Reid D Hanson (@ReidDHanson) May 18, 2023
Pollard has never had more than 193 carries in a season before. Given his explosiveness is his greatest strength, the Cowboys probably want to keep his workload in the same territory. 11.2 carries per game (Aaron Jones’ pace in 2018 as RB1), projects to 190 carries over the course of a season. The numbers are lining up.
Factoring in the opportunities Pollard will see as a pass catcher, 260 touches seems like a reasonable number for him in 2023.
How many times the Cowboys want to run the ball each week will ultimately determine the number of carries, but based on McCarthy’s recent past, Pollard will likely get 50-60 percent of the rushing workload in 2023.
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