Tony Pollard will likely start Cowboys' preseason opener, and the rookie is already impressing Dak Prescott

There's a new deputy in town for the Dallas Cowboys.

With the team currently hammering out terms on a contract extension for running back Ezekiel Elliott, they're forced to continue training camp without their two-time league rushing champ in tow. His absence has led to a reunion with veteran Alfred Morris on a one-year deal worth $1.02 million, and has allowed yet unproven talent like Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn additional reps to make a case for themselves in August. It's the rookies who are truly stepping up, though, with Mike Weber and Tony Pollard raising more than a few eyebrows in Oxnard, Calif.

With their preseason opener set to kickoff against the San Francisco 49ers, all eyes will undoubtedly key in on the Cowboys' battle at RB, and it's likely be Pollard gets first crack at playing with the starters. 

It's key to note that even if Elliott was present, he'd be on the sideline with his helmet off in all four of the team's preseason outings, because it was never the Cowboys' plan to play their two-time All-Pro in August. Elliott hasn't taken a single preseason snap since Aug. 26, 2016 -- when he nearly knocked the hard-hitting Kam Chancellor into the locker room -- mostly because head coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones see no point in risking Elliott to preseason football

This means his current holdout is more about being available in practice and nothing more, with the jury still out on if it'll bleed into the regular season.

It remains unlikely that it will, but if it does, Pollard has already done enough in camp to possibly move up on the Week 1 depth chart. He wasn't selected to be Elliott's replacement and the team doesn't view him as such, but Pollard could combine with Morris, Weber, four-year veteran Darius Jackson and recently extended fullback Jamize Olawale to make for a solid contingency plan. Weber also has the chops to make an impact, but in a different capacity than his fellow rookie

At Memphis, Pollard ranked sixth in the 2019 draft class in percentage of not being tackled upon first contact (41.8 percent), per Pro Football Focus. In other words, he's as slippery as a wet eel and twice as electric, able to break a game open in a variety of ways. He rattled off 2,616 kick return yards and seven return TDs in his last three collegiate seasons, and those numbers were good enough to see him honored twice as an All-AAC offensive player and twice as an All-AAC Special Teams Player of the Year.

He's brought the same energy to training camp, much to the Cowboys' delight.

"Tony Pollard has done a real nice job out there," team exec Stephen Jones said recently, via David Moore of The Dallas Morning News. "He's getting a little bit of everything. He's probably one that has stuck out for me if I were going to pick one."

Head coach Jason Garrett mirrors Jones' sentiment in a big way, and believes Pollard will get even faster once the game slows down mentally for him.

"He is someone who continues to play fast," Garrett noted. "He doesn't look like he's not playing to his speed because he is thinking too much."

Considering how fast the former Memphis star has looked already, Garrett's statement is telling of how valuable a pick Pollard might've been in April. The fourth-rounder was selected with the goal of helping new coordinator Kellen Moore spread out the offense more, and to help ease a bit of the workload on Elliott. Pollard showed at the collegiate level that he can make plays as a halfback, wide receiver and returner, which should make it hard for the Cowboys' opposition to scheme him going forward.

Dak Prescott is all for what the rookie brings to the table, and couldn't be more impressed with what he's seeing in camp.

"One of the most exciting players to me of this training camp," he said of Pollard. "The things that he's been able to do running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield. He's making plays. ...He's going to help us out."

When you get Hall of Famer and scouting legend Gil Brandt trumpeting your potential, it's safe to say your future is bright.

"[I can't] stop thinking of how impressive Tony Pollard looked while I was in Oxnard for two days," Brandt tweeted. "[His] running style reminds me of Lenny Moore -- Google if you're under 40. I know Cowboys want to sign Zeke, but they have great insurance in Pollard. Either way, he'll be involved this year."

Although his skill set and collegiate numbers speak for themselves, Pollard isn't resting on his laurels or leaving anything to chance. His goal is to step in and make an immediate impact for the Cowboys in whatever fashion they need, be it insurance until Elliott returns or a dynamic compliment once the two-time Pro Bowler does.

"I'm in the playbook every night," Pollard explained. "Every night you have to learn what you just did in practice and get up on a new install. Just trying to stay a step ahead. I always stay ready so I don't have to get ready."

Ready or not, he's about to be welcomed to the NFL in a big way, and it's time to see just how sharp the Tiger's claws are.

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