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Dallas Cowboys Weighing All Options At Fullback

The age of having a traditional fullback on the roster in the NFL has really started dwindle  over the last several years. So much so that very few teams even have a fullback on their roster. Teams have started using H-backs, tight ends, and even offensive/defensive lineman to come in and make those traditional type fullbacks expendable because they can contribute in more ways for the team. Since taking over the head-coaching responsibilities for the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett is one of the remaining few that likes to have a traditional fullback on the final 53 man roster. Since 2013, Tyler Clutts has been the Cowboys fullback, but he is currently a free agent and it appears as if the organization is ready to examine all options to replace him.

Brian Martin

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The age of having a traditional fullback on the roster in the NFL has really started dwindle  over the last several years. So much so that very few teams even have a fullback on their roster.

Teams have started using H-backs, tight ends, and even offensive/defensive lineman to come in and make those traditional type fullbacks expendable because they can contribute in more ways for the team.

Since taking over the head-coaching responsibilities for the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett is one of the remaining few that likes to have a traditional fullback on the final 53 man roster.

Since 2013, Tyler Clutts has been the Cowboys fullback, but he is currently a free agent and it appears as if the organization is ready to examine all options to replace him.

It's hard to justify carrying a fullback on the roster when they play so few snaps. In 2015, Clutts played in only 13% of the offensive snaps (133), and only played 79 snaps on special teams. With each and every roster spot being so valuable, you can see why teams have started to look for more versatile players to fill the fullback position, while also contributing in other ways.

That is why it should come to no surprise that the Cowboys are looking at two of their current players to make a position change to fullback.

Brandon George on Twitter

The Cowboys are moving LB Keith Smith to fullback. He'll compete for the fullback job on this year's team with RB Rod Smith.

Both Keith and Rod Smith's best chance of making the roster in 2016 might just be playing a position that is foreign to them up to this point of their careers, but a position that might just earn them more playing time.

Keith Smith has been on and off the Cowboys roster the last two seasons. At 6'0", 232 pounds, he has the build to make the transition to fullback. There must be something to  his game that the Cowboys like and making the switch to fullback could be a way of trying to find a place for him on the roster.

He has already gone from wearing #56 and is now sporting the #41 jersey, so the move is already in the works.

The transition may be a little bit easier on Rod Smith since he has been accustomed to lining up in the backfield, but now he will be switching from receiving the handoffs to becoming a lead blocker.

Rod Smith joined the Cowboys roster in 2015 after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks. He played in 10 games but did not contribute in the running or passing game.  He did however remain on the roster despite this because he was able to contribute on special teams.

At 6'3", 226 pounds, he doesn't have the traditional build of a fullback, but it's his versatility that I think the Cowboys find intriguing.

In fact, Mark Lane recently tweeted what Jason Garrett finds intriguing about Rod Smith making that transition to fullback.

Mark Lane on Twitter

Jason Garrett on why you would take an RB like Rod Smith and make him a fullback:

It certainly sounds as if the Cowboys have put quite a bit of thought into moving Rod Smith to fullback and weighing the many benefits that can come from having a converted running back play fullback on offense.

One of my fellow writers here at Inside The Star, Jess Haynie, expressed his thoughts back in March about the Cowboys future at the fullback position, and I would definitely suggest taking a look at some of the options he suggests.

At this point though, it looks as if the Cowboys are willing to see what they have in Keith and Rod Smith and see if they can be the answer at fullback in 2016.

This will definitely be something to keep an eye on during the off-season and yet another position battle that could come down to how many different ways a certain player can contribute to the team.

The more you can do right?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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1 Comment
  • Jess Haynie

    I love that they’re going this route over re-signing Clutts or bringing in some other fullback. With how much we use single-back formations, anybody we use as a lead blocker needs to be able to do other things to really be worth a roster spot.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: TE Geoff Swaim

Jess Haynie

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For the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, the retirement of Tight End Jason Witten was one of the biggest developments of the offseason. It leaves a gaping hole in their offense, and no major free agent or high draft pick was added as a clear replacement. As such, fourth-year veteran Geoff Swaim may be in line for a breakout season.

A seventh-round pick in 2015, Swaim has stuck in Dallas with strong run-blocking and special teams play. His offensive production has been limited to just nine catches and 94 yards, thanks largely to the stranglehold that Witten kept on the TE position. Geoff has only been targeted 11 times in the passing game over three seasons.

But with Witten leaving, as well as veteran backup James Hanna, Swaim is now the elder statesman of the TE group. Even his limited playing time in the NFL thus far puts him way ahead of Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, or rookie Dalton Schultz.

Based on reports from the offseason practices and camps, Geoff is getting the first crack at becoming the new starter. It makes sense given his experience edge, but also his proficiency as a run blocker.

The Cowboys will likely lean on Ezekiel Elliott heavily this year, particularly early in the season. The passing game will need time to find itself with Witten and Dez Bryant gone. They'll want to ease Dak Prescott into heavier workloads as he and his new receiving options get acclimated.

Geoff Swaim

Dallas Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim

Geoff Swaim will be one of those new options. And even though his reputation is for blocking, don't take that to mean he's not athletic.

We've seen Swaim on the move as a blocker and also in the passing game, and he's certainly got some wheels. That could make him a deceptive weapon on play-action and other passing plays out of running formations.

In some ways, losing Witten and Bryant makes the Cowboys' offense less predictable than in the past. Defenses will be less sure who to focus on, and that also creates opportunities for the new receivers.

Obviously, Swaim's breakout potential is dependent on Prescott looking his way. But unless Dak has undergone a major change in his playing style, a TE working in the short and middle parts of the field is someone he'll rely on plenty.

With training camp and preseason still to come, calling Geoff the starter right now is just an assumption. There is still time for one of the other prospects to impress and climb the ladder.

But right now, there's clearly no better candidate to claim the spot than Swaim. He has the most critical skill as a blocker, and his potential in the passing game is underrated. It's his job to lose.

The guy with only nine career catches could get that in a single game this year. Therefore, Geoff Swaim is clearly one of the major breakout candidates for the 2018 Cowboys.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: LB Jaylon Smith

Jess Haynie

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#DALvsIND: 5 Cowboys Storylines To Watch In Preseason Week 2 1

No single player on the Dallas Cowboys roster right now may be more primed for a breakout season than Linebacker Jaylon Smith. His ascension as a player isn't just a big gain for the Cowboys defense, but it may be vital to their success in 2018.

Smith joined the Cowboys as a high second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. Potentially a top-five elite talent in that class, Jaylon's stock fell after a severe knee injury in his final college game. It was unknown if he could ever play football again, but Dallas took the risk based on Smith's incredible upside.

After Jaylon sat out his rookie year to fully rehab. In 2017, he was able to play all 16 games and started in six. That alone was a huge win for Smith and the Cowboys.

Jaylon's performance last year wasn't great,  but understandably so after all the missed time. He also had to regain confidence in his knee, which is critical for a linebacker with all of the directional changes during plays.

Still, Smith got better as the season went. And even amidst the struggles, there were flashes of his instincts and potential.

This offseason, reports of Jaylon's improving health are fueling increased optimism. He is now playing without a knee brace and that means more confidence. If Smith fully trusts his body now, it will make him far more dangerous on the field.

5 Positives for Cowboys Heading Into the Off-Season

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

With Anthony Hitchens leaving in free agency, Dallas needs Jaylon to be a bigger factor this year. If he doesn't take the next step, it could leave the Cowboys vulnerable at linebacker in 2018.

True, Dallas drafted Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last April's draft. But it's always dangerous to ask a rookie to do heavy lifting, and especially one who is seen as a raw talent like Vander Esch.

Ideally, anything Dallas gets from Leighton this year will be gravy. Their goal is to rely on veteran Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, with Damien Wilson also available as a solid fallback option.

But when you mention Sean Lee, you have to mention health concerns. After two encouragingly healthy seasons in 2015 and 2016, Lee was back to having some issues last year and missed five games.

That is all the more reason why Dallas needs Jaylon to be ready for more this year. If Lee misses time again, Smith is the best suited to take over the roles that Sean leaves behind.

Thankfully, all signs point to big things for Jaylon Smith in 2018. His body appears healed and there's no questioning his work ethic and desire. If the mental aspect of football has also developed, he could be everything the Cowboys hoped when they drafted them.



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Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Despite Late Push in Year One, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See the Field in 2018? 1
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.

These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.

Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.

Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, DT Maliek Collins (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.

This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.

Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.

The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.

It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.

Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.

As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.

For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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