Football is a constantly evolving game, and the NFL is a constantly evolving league. While the basics and fundamentals of the sport stay relatively the same throughout time, strategies and certain intricacies will always come and go.
As the game moves into the future it will leave behind certain philosophies, terminology, and even positions. The fullback position is one of the latest casualties of our ever-evolving game. While the Dallas Cowboys believe they have drafted their next Emmitt Smith in Ezekiel Elliott, their next Daryl Johnston may never exist.
Fullbacks used to serve a necessary and important purpose in an offense; a blocking back out of the backfield who could clear up the 2nd level of defenders to help your running back find open space. In this new pass-first league which puts an added focus on athleticism and versatility, the traditional fullback-type no longer has a place in most offenses. Even those teams which are more "run-first" are using zone read schemes and designed quarterback runs out of single back sets, which obviously lack a fullback.
In Dallas, however, head coach Jason Garrett has refused to let go. After employing fullback Tyler Clutts for the past few seasons, the Cowboys are now looking to replace him with some new blood.
While the current options seem to be either converted running back Rod Smith or former linebacker Keith Smith, I think it might be time for the Cowboys to stop trying to utilize a traditional blocking fullback at all. It's time for versatility, it's time for athleticism, and with the amount of quality running backs currently on the roster, it's time to let go.
The Cowboys need all the tight ends they can get, which may leave no room for a traditional fullback.
We all know the Cowboys love to run out of two tight end sets, making each and every tight end on their roster valuable. Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna, and Geoff Swaim are all but guaranteed roster spots at this point because of the necessity for this offense to carry four tight ends.
Yes, I remember how putrid some of these players have looked during blocking situations, but with the team already needing to carry so many tight ends, the space for a fullback is limited.
Escobar will likely start the season on the physically unable to perform list however, making rookie tight end Rico Gathers even more important. If he is retained after Escobar returns, he will be the fifth tight end, taking up even more roster space.
Maybe Hanna and company can improve their blocking and work out of the backfield more comfortably. Maybe not. But I think it is at least worth a try considering the team may end up carrying five tight ends. Even if Gathers is on the practice squad.
They should not sacrifice a potential playmaker for a fullback.
Specifically, they should not feel handcuffed and forced to cut a running back that they see value in just because they feel the need to carry a fullback. You know that Elliott is going to be there, and I would strongly believe that Alfred Morris is going to be on the roster as well. That leaves Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, and sixth round rookie Darius Jackson fighting for the third running back spot.
McFadden has issues with scheme fit, but he has already shown some ability to make it work in this offense and behind that offensive line. Also a former number four overall pick, he may be able to bring some veteran leadership into the running back group and specifically with Ezekiel Elliott.
While he may start the season on the physically unable to perform list, Dunbar has shown the ability to make plays out of the backfield and in the pass game before. I would hate to lose Dunbar because the coaches decide they want to convert someone to a traditional fullback role.
But you can keep both McFadden and Dunbar and carry a fullback. That shouldn't be a problem. My desire to eliminate the position comes from my expectations for Darius Jackson.
As I discussed in my film review of Jackson, he has big play ability every time he touches the ball. He is explosive, shifty, and so fast. He will be able to fill that Dunbar-type role for the Cowboys if needed, but with his size I think he may be able to do so much more.
If Rod Smith or Keith Smith prove to be good fullbacks, then by all means keep them.
I like Rod Smith a lot as a player, but I don't know how effective a fullback he is going to be. At this point, all I can do it predict and project, and I honestly expect Jackson to impress during camp enough for the coaches to find it damn near impossible to let him go.
Regardless of what the final decision is, these next two months are going to decide a lot about how good the Cowboys can be in 2016.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
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