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.
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.
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?
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
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