FRISCO - It could be an innocuous as a Dallas Cowboys case of hay fever. Or it could be the result of another sort of “fever” that might be spreading in the NFL: the chess match that could result in a running back playing wide receiver.
Cowboys running back Tony Pollard "looks very natural” at OTAs taking snaps as a wideout, Dallas Cowboys Coach Mike McCarthy revealed at The Star on Thursday.
Oh, really? And why the shuffle? The three reasons:
1) Said McCarthy: “We have a few guys with nicks. Our numbers are down. We had a couple guys who were under the weather with allergies.”
So a shortage of wideouts to help Dallas get through workouts? Yeah, but while Amari Cooper (who underwent minor foot surgery in the off-season) did not participate in the Thursday workout, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson did practice as QB Dak Prescott’s first-team targets. And Simi Fehoko, Osirus Mitchell, Stephen Guidry, Noah Brown, and others were available.
2) It's been suggested that the move is simply a way to keep Pollard, entering his third NFL season and playing behind the two-time rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott, involved in the work.
But these are OTAs. Maybe the elusive Pollard - who while in college at Memphis demonstrated the ability to truly play wide receiver - has been under-utilized in games. But here? There are plenty of snaps in practice for the established No. 2 runner.
3) “It’s also,” McCarthy said, “to give us the opportunity to rep those concepts with Tony."
And now we’re talking.
A few years ago, running back Le'Veon Bell lining up as a wideout for the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t an “exotic,” or a gimmick. He could play the position, and could keep defenses off-balance by doing so.
Just as NFL teams are increasingly trying to find linebackers who can play safety and vice versa (as Dallas is doing with the Keanu Neal), offenses are trying to counter-move that concept.
How often will the Cowboys really put Tony Pollard on the field in place of, say, third receiver Michael Gallup? Maybe far less than they put him on the field in place ofElliott.
But it’s OTA time. So along with it being allergy season … It’s experiment season.