Jerry Jones on Cowboys running backs: Ezekiel Elliott's 'gotta be our feature'

While Cowboys fans clamor for Tony Pollard to play a more prominent role in the offense, Dallas owner Jerry Jones continues to underscore the importance of Ezekiel Elliott.

Joining NFL Network's coverage of Training Camp: Back Together Saturday, Jones said the team wants to get Pollard on the field, but not at the expense of Zeke's carries.

"We gotta have Tony Pollard out there. No, seriously, Zeke's gotta be our feature, and he is our feature," Jones said. "We can feature him in a lot of different ways. We all recognize what he does in the passing game because of his protection ability. Don't ever underestimate that especially with Zeke. Zeke takes some tolls when he's out there as a back blocking. So it's critical that we make Zeke -- because he's capable of being that -- really the focus of what we're doing. Now then, Pollard, there's plenty of room for Pollard. There's plenty of room for Pollard when Zeke's in there. Pollard needs to get the ball."

Elliott's importance in pass protection is something that the Cowboys have highlighted as a reason he's vital to the offense, even as his yards per carry have waned.

Elliott generated a career-low 13.9 carries per game and 58.9 rush YPG in 2021 while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Zeke particularly struggled late in the season while dealing with a knee injury, earning just 3.6 yards per carry from Weeks 8-18 (5.1 YPC Weeks 1-6). He also generated 2.7 yards after contact per carry in 2021.

Pollard, meanwhile, displayed explosive ability in minimal reps. Pollard set career-highs in carries (130), rush yards (719) and scrimmage yards (1,056) in 2021 (first career season with 1,000+ scrimmage yards). His 3.6 yards after contact per carry were fifth most in the NFL last year.

With the Cowboys dealing with questions at receiver -- Michael Gallup has already said he won't be ready to return for Week 1 as he comes back from a torn ACL -- Pollard could see increased reps out wide.

Jones' insistence that Elliott remains the lead back should signal that we'll see more two-back sets from the Cowboys this season. In 2021, Dallas used two RB sets on just 57 of 1,153 snaps, per Next Gen Stats. The Cowboys must find a way to get Pollard on the field, even if it's not cutting significantly into Zeke's reps.

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