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.
Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.
WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys
This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.
While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.
What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?
Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?
Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?
Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?
All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.
Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.
Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.
What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?
What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position
UPDATE: News of Hurns saying he will sign with the Cowboys broke as this article went live.
Free Agency began a bit late for the Dallas Cowboys, but they've already done enough to get fans discussing about the latest additions to the roster. Adding help on offense, defense and special teams in form of tier-2 free agents may not be what Cowboys Nation wants to see, but I'm certain they wouldn't have enjoyed giving Sammy Watkins a three-year $48M contract, either.
However, the Cowboys are clearly in the wide receiver market after an offensively disappointing season. They have quite a few of this year's class of wide receivers prospects scheduled to visit Dallas, and they've hosted some WR free agents as well.
This week, they even signed one.
Deonte Thompson, who started seven games for the Bills last year, is coming to Dallas on a one-year $2.5M contract. The 29-year old could be the burner receiver this offense is missing and could end up being an improved version of Brice Butler for the Cowboys in 2018.
He hasn't had a great career but last season was his best year so far. Starting three games for the Bears and seven for the Bills, Thompson was able to rack up a career-high 555 yards and two touchdowns.
His best attribute as a player is definitely the speed he brings to the table and his ability to separate down the field, which he'll be looking to do on Dak Prescott's offense this season.
But there was another wide receiver visiting Dallas this week and now we wonder whether or not the Deonte Thompson signing will keep the Cowboys from targeting former Jaguars' WR Allen Hurns.
According to Todd Archer, that won't be the case.
Told the signing of Deonte Thompson does not close the door on the Cowboys' interest in Allen Hurns, who visited the team Wednesday and had dinner. Things could get interesting in the Cowboys' wide receivers' room. https://t.co/Ivt5uk9kBN
It shouldn't be. First of all, Hurns is a much better player than Thompson and would provide this offense with a receiver who can play in the "X" or in the "Z" role. We've been talking about getting Prescott a reliable target to try to give him a "best friend." Allen Hurns could be just that.
Sure, he's had a couple of down seasons, but the talent is there to take.
Simply put, the Deonte Thompson signing shouldn't stop the Cowboys from looking at WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Allen Hurns would.
It sure would make things interesting in the wide receiver room for Dallas. Despite what many believe, Dez Bryant will probably remain a Cowboy even if Hurns is signed. Let's say the Cowboys go out there and get the 26-year old from Jacksonville and have to decide which six receivers to keep for the season.
They'd possibly have to decide among these:
- Dez Bryant
- Terrrance Williams
- Cole Beasley
- Ryan Switzer
- Allen Hurns
- Deonte Thompson
- Noah Brown
- A drafted rookie?
This is where a lot of dilemmas start taking form. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are basically the same player and if you're not going to use them both at the same time, do you keep them anyway? What about Terrance Williams? He could be the worst receiver to make the cut just because of his contract.
Noah Brown showed promise in 2017, are they ready to move on from him? And finally, a rookie could very well end up beating Deonte Thompson, who was guaranteed a million in his contract.
Wide receiver is indeed one of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys. They could head to the 2018 NFL Draft needing one in the top rounds or they could be fine signing Hurns and taking a late-rounder receiver to compete in training camp for a spot on the roster.
As long as they're having a tough time deciding because they are all good, it should be fine.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
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