Should the Cowboys Sign Derrick Henry to Replace Pollard?

One thing in the Dallas Cowboys’ “Texas Coast Offense” that didn’t work out this season was the running game – at least not at the expected level.

After Ezekiel Elliott was moved on and Tony Pollard succeeded him, the expectation was for the Cowboys rushing attack to be a focal point of Mike McCarthy’s offense. In fact, McCarthy said as much.

But it failed to get going and a shift in attacking mindset after Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, saw the Cowboys opt for a more pass-oriented approach.

Dallas finished 15th in rushing yards per game (113.5), which was a worse return than 2022 (131.7). The Cowboys lost on average, just over 20 yards per game with Pollard as the lead back compared to last season.

In four of the Cowboys five regular-season losses, they were held to under 100 yards rushing as the “complementary football” that McCarthy preached all season was tough to maintain weekly.

Pollard, in his first season as the lead back, had a “relatively” down year. He finished the season with 1,005 rushing yards and six touchdowns while averaging 59.1 yards per game on 252 carries.

On face value, that doesn’t seem “bad,” but the deeper we dive, the truth is telling.

Last season, Pollard had more yards (1,007), rushing touchdowns (nine), yards per game (62.9) and yards per carry (5.2) than he did this season. Now for the real eyebrow raiser – Pollard had 59 more carries than he did in 2022.

He also only had one 100-yard rushing game all season (Week 3 vs. the Cardinals) and never had more than 79 yards in a game outside of that. Pollard also only had two rushing touchdowns in the first nine games.

So, he had less production with more involvement.

Now part of that could be that he wasn’t as “fresh” due to Elliott no longer being the change up on offense. It could also be due to the fact that the Dallas offensive line struggled in the run game all season as the gaping holes Pollard was used to seeing, simply weren’t there.

The continuity of the “best five” was also not there as Tyron Smith and Zack Martin both missed time this season with injury.

The third-year running back showed glimpses of his talents as his “angry” running style proved difficult to stop and drew plaudits from McCarthy. Unfortunately, Rico didn’t get the chance to showcase his ability as just six times he had five or more carries in a game.

But when he did, the Dallas running game looked far more potent. Three times Dowdle had nine or more carries, he churned out yard totals of 79, 46 and 46 along with two touchdowns.

Coincidently, Dallas surpassed 130+ rushing yards and won all three of those games.

Others in KaVontae Turpin (11 carries, 110 yards, 1 TD), CeeDee Lamb (14 carries, 113 yards, 2 TDs) and Dak Prescott (55 carries, 242 yards, 2 TDs) all chipped in as well.

There will be a serious reevaluation of the running back room as Pollard’s franchise tag likely won’t be placed on him again as Dallas is unlikely to spend upwards of $10 million APY.

And we wonder: After a year of watching Dallas struggle in the red zone with cries of desire for a “power back” … what about one big swing at a (probably) fading talent who is approaching free agency and has already said goodbye to Tennessee in Derrick Henry?

There have long been rumors linking Henry to Dallas; there has never been much substance there. But now? Henry, 30, can still play.

He just ran for 1,167 yards behind a poor offensive lines, played in every game, led the league in carries and closed strong – his best performance came in the final Titans game, as he rushed for 153 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries – a 8.1-yard rushing average that won him that week’s NFL “ground game” award.

Spotrac projects his 2024 salary at $4.3 million. A one-year, last-gasp try – in what could be McCarthy’s final year if things don’t work out? That’s enticing.

Dowdle is a restricted free agent but could return if the Cowboys see value and he would be a cheaper option than Pollard. Dallas signed running backs Malik Davis and Snoop Conner to future contracts.

In the end, there could be a host of new faces in the backfield next season for the Cowboys … and there is an argument for one of the new faces to be an old familiar face.



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