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Has Keith Smith And The FB Position Become Obsolete In Dallas?

Brian Martin

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Keith Smith: Will The Cowboys Carry A Fullback In 2017?

The evolution of the passing game around the NFL has caused a lot of teams in the league to forgo carrying a fullback on their roster. The Dallas Cowboys are among the handful of teams that still value the position, but it's starting to look as if Keith Smith and the FB position might become obsolete in Dallas as well.

This is all speculation at this point, but it is really starting to look as if the Dallas Cowboys could be shifting towards the 10 personnel offensive package in 2017. This would make the offense much more quarterback friendly for Dak Prescott, while also improving the running game for Ezekiel Elliott by making the opposing defense have to cover the entire field.

The 10 personnel package is basically a spread offense. The offense spreads the defense out by using four wide receiver sets and one running back. Of course there are different variations of how to align everyone, but it should only make the Cowboys offense even more potent.

With the players the Dallas Cowboys currently have on their roster, the 10 personnel makes a lot of sense. They could line up Dez Bryant/Cole Beasley on one side and have Terrance Williams/Ryan Switzer playing on the opposite side of the field. This particular personal package really puts a defense at a disadvantage and becomes much more Dak friendly.

Of course, if the Cowboys do start using the 10 personnel package more in 2017, that would mean the FB position becomes even less of a need than it currently is. Add all of that up, and we could see Keith Smith and the FB position become obsolete in 2017.

FB Keith SmithKeith Smith of course still is a valuable asset to have, which is why it wouldn't surprise me if the Dallas Cowboys continue to carry a fullback on the roster. Not only does he play fullback, but he is also a core special-teams player and can play linebacker (his former position) if needed.

To have a player that can fill so many roles on your team is hard to come by, but that doesn't mean his production cannot be replaced by other players currently on the roster.

Case in point. Keith Smith only gets a handful of plays on offense in every game, and most of those are in short yardage situations as a lead blocker. The Cowboys could choose to use a tight end in that role, something Geoff Swaim did in college at the University of Texas.

So, offensively things wouldn't change much without a traditional fullback on the team, which now frees up an open roster spot for someone that can be more of a contributor. With every single roster spot being so valuable, there are a number of different ways the Cowboys could go about addressing the depth at each position.

Now, I have nothing against Keith Smith, but there just seems to be more positives than negatives by not keeping a fullback on the roster.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should carry a FB in 2017?



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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6 Comments
  • Jess Haynie

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fb32ecf29fe634e1081ad986a2096df1b39b7aeebf41787abe27ea6e09fce08f.jpg

    Dallas has already experimented with the 2-TE system and went back to using the fullback. They have had their best rushing success with a true fullback. It’d be one thing if Smith was average, but last year he graded out as the 4th-best FB in the NFL.

    Wrote about it in January: https://insidethestar.com/keith-smith-gives-cowboys-value-stability-fullback/

    • Brian Martin

      This has less to do about Keith Smith and the FB position then the fact I think the Cowboys could start using the 10 personnel more often in 2017. That would mean that Smith would see even less offensive snaps, thus making the FB position less of a need.

      I personally like Smith and the versatility he provides to the team, but freeing up an extra roster spot could allow the Cowboys to carry an extra player at a position of greater need.

  • Russ_Te

    FB is a conundrum for NFL offenses in the 2010’s. The game has evolved from the classic run attack of the 1990’s Cowboys – which itself was an evolution from the 1970’s attacks in which you not only had a FB, but he got 15-20 carries a game just as the old “halfback” position did.

    I come at it from the bias that, we know the damage that Dallas did to teams with having a seek & destroy FB in Daryl Johnston. This offense is built so similarly with the horses up front and the talented RB, it’s hard to argue against doing what they did. It still works as it did then, because of superior talent. The defense knows it’s coming, they walk a SS up, and still get beaten up over the course of the game.

    And I always prefer the lead blocking FB who can get running before contact, to the TE blocker up on the line. Yet in today’s game the FB comes out for spread sets which indeed, are very hard to defend when you have the receivers to run it. So when they are in, everyone on defense keys run & I think that is what today’s OC’s want to get away from.

    So I don’t know the best answer, but will say that Linehan’s offenses do bring a versatility to play different styles of offense well. Whereas the 1990’s Cowboys were all smash mouth. Not sure they ran spread sets as well as this team can, and they didn’t try to very much.

    • Brian Martin

      I feel pretty much the same way as you do. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer. I think at the Cowboys continue to run their offense like they have the past several seasons,, then the FB position is still valuable. But, if they are shifting towards running more of a spread offense, then it is a wasted roster spot in my opinion.

  • Russ_Te

    If I am in 3 or 4 wide a lot, I’m putting Butler in a slot sometimes & running him right down the hash marks on a go route. The FS will piss himself, leaving Bryant single up underneath it…

    • Brian Martin

      I like that idea, but I think they could do the same thing with Switzer in the slot, which could catch defenses even more off guard. I don’t know if they would expect him to run many deep routes. I think everybody pretty much compares him to Beasley, but I think he’s a much better outside threat then 11.

Star Blog

Neutral Perspective: Dak Prescott is NOT a 1-Man Army

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Neutral Perspective: Dak Prescott is NOT a 1-Man Army

It doesn’t take a lot to cause an overreaction in the NFL, and fans and the media alike can be very fickle. Thus, when the Dallas Cowboys were beaten by the Carolina Panthers in week one the discussions surrounding their title credentials began, and even more so because Dak Prescott and his Cowboys offense was only able to score 8 points. He left the stadium still looking for his first touchdown pass of the season and wondering what went wrong.

By all accounts, Prescott wasn’t great, and his quarterback rating of 81.1 reflects that. His performance left the fans concerned and some asserting there were no shades of the Prescott of 2016. Nonetheless, a quarterback has to be helped by his offensive line, and allowing him to get sacked six times shows that improvement is needed up front.

In week 2, against the New York Giants, Prescott started the game with a booming 64-yard touchdown pass to WR Tavon Austin on the first series of the game. It was a play four whole quarters of football in the making and made fans explode in celebration following the lackluster performance against CAR. Prescott's rating jumped to 95.4 and he wasn't sacked during the contest. Even still, he threw the ball for 10 fewer yards than in week 1 and was 1.5% less on his completion percentage too.

Prescott’s best defense is the Cowboys' lack of stand-out wide receivers. The loss of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant – neither of whom has adequately been replaced – is the biggest cause of this perceived fall from grace. Those departures have undeniably created a problem, but one that many great quarterbacks over the years have managed to overcome.

While the doom and gloom felt by Cowboys Nation after week 1 has abated some with a victory over New York, for a franchise that has enjoyed the often wow-worthy play of Tony Romo, Dak Prescott has a way to go yet, to say the least.

Dak Prescott's Top 10 Plays of the Dallas Cowboys' 2016 Season

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The current situation is difficult for the Cowboys, but there are also psychological mitigations. One of these is their presence in a division with the reigning Super Bowl winners, the Philadelphia Eagles.

This has long since put the Cowboys on the back foot in the futures betting markets, with an average moneyline price of +210 that makes them the least likely team to win the NFC East division. Unlike betting on individual games themselves, the futures market is a starker reflection of a team's form, rather than the more reactionary moneyline prices on individual games.

Criticism, from experts and fans alike, always intensifies after a defeat, and starting the season off at 1-1 isn't always enough to overcome said criticism. So too will the moneyline price of the Cowboys besting the Eagles lengthen, although the rewards for keeping faith in the Cowboys to do that – if they somehow do – will be all the more greater if they proceed to underachieve.

NFC East Preview 2018 | T2F Podcast

On this episode, we are joined by Jon Cassel, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, to discuss each team in the NFC East (Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles) going into the 2018 season. SUBSCRIBE to T2F for more football content! SUPPORT us through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Time2Football Follow us on social media!

Dak Prescott Needs Support Like Never Before

The likes of Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns aren’t going to be reaching the Hall of Fame, but they are more than capable of helping Dallas score more than 8 points in a game. Take away the opening-drive shot from week 2, the only TD pass Dak has thrown in 2018, and the Cowboys scored just 13 points against the Giants. It's hardly confidence inspiring, yet.

There have been numerous points so far where the Prescott of 2016 would have found the receiver, but for whatever reason, those throws just aren’t being made with any consistency right now. That is especially bad considering the breathing room that is given by an elite level running back, which can be found in the form of Ezekiel Elliott.

Zeke got the ball 15 times for 69 yards against CAR and 17 times for 78 yards against NYG, both of which have to be less than he would have liked. Yet, the Panthers were out to stop him, specifically, and the Cowboys offensive line couldn’t cope, which allowed Elliott to lack effectiveness and their quarterback to be put to the ground half a dozen times. The opening drive against the Giants certainly helped alleviate pressure on Prescott, but it's clear that the defense beat the Giants, overall.

These, however, are problems that an offensive coordinator needs to overcome, and Scott Linehan didn’t cover himself in glory either.

Ultimately, above all else, there seems to be a bit of disunity within the offense. The receivers feel unloved, the running backs face a lot of defenders on each play, and the quarterback must improve his accuracy.

These situations are where you need creative play calling and a unique approach.

Dak Prescott & Ezekiel Elliott: Top 5 Moments of The 2016 Cowboys Season

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Spirit of 2016 Can Still Make an Impact

With every defeat, the next game is hugely important, in the mind if not on paper. If the Cowboys can step up and convincingly rack up some wins, then – as ever – it will start to go quiet.

One aspect that sometimes goes overlooked is the defense. Conceding 16 points against Carolina and 13 against New York should usually be more than low enough to secure a win. Thus, if the Cowboys keep up that level of performance, then they should win a lot more games than they lose. But that's because most offenses in the NFL are capable of scoring 20-or-more points a game. With the Cowboys defense performing as they have been thus far, the onus is on the offense the close out games.

There's a reason the quarterback position is regarded far above all others, and Prescott needs to carry the team with him to keep that winning feeling in the Cowboys’ locker room.

He needs to give the opposition’s defensive line more to think about, and make them fear the pass as much as Elliott’s or his own rushing ability. That will give his receivers more confidence and Elliott more space. If his offensive line isn’t doing its job then he and Linehan need to think of ways to get the ball out quickly and on target.

Doom and gloom often surrounds any first loss of a season, but if Prescott and Elliott can work together as they did in their first win of the season, then it’s going to be very hard to beat them, especially if their defense keeps playing to such high standards as they have.

Regardless, the Super Bowl is anything but a lock at this point, and the problems need to be fixed quickly, before "distant" becomes mathematically "impossible."



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Star Blog

Can WR Brice Butler Help Improve Cowboys Passing Game?

Brian Martin

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Can WR Brice Butler Help Improve Cowboys Passing Game?

In a somewhat confusing move, the Dallas Cowboys decided to re-add Wide Receiver Brice Butler to the roster in order to get something more out of the passing game, which to be honest has been pretty putrid in the first two games of the 2018 season. Something needed to be done, but I'm not sure that Butler is the answer.

I'm going to agree with my fellow Staff Writer, Jess Haynie, in saying that the Cowboys decision to reunite with Brice Butler makes no sense. Jess is actually much more polite than I would've been when I initially found out about this transaction. I personally hate the move and I'm not afraid to say it. But ultimately, it wasn't my decision to make and the only thing that really matters here is whether or not Butler can help improve the passing game?

With all of the questions surrounding the Cowboys receivers, Butler's addition just adds another one. Unfortunately, we are two games into the 2018 season and the receiver position still remains the biggest unknown. No one has really stepped up their game and with the exception of Tavon Austin's touchdown catch last week, there hasn't been any big plays in the passing game.

I don't really know how Brice Butler is supposed to improve things. Is he supposed to be the "go to" receiver now? Is he any better than what the Cowboys already have on the roster? Or, will he end up being more of a progress stopper? Like I said, he just adds more questions to be answered.

I for one don't see any upside in adding Butler. Yes, Quarterback Dak Prescott has a bond with him, but nothing ever really materialized there when #19 was here previously. He showed flashes, like he has at all of his stops in the NFL, but his inconsistencies couldn't convince the coaching staff to play him more. So, what's changed?

Brice Butler, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Brice Butler

The obvious answer here would be the subtraction of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in the passing game. That's quite a bit of production missing that has yet to be accounted for. But again, I am still not buying into the Butler addition as a solution.

I know it sounds like I'm slamming Brice Butler pretty hard, but there was a time when I wanted to see him on the field more. Like many of you, the past few seasons I wanted to see him receive a promotion over Terrance Williams, but unfortunately that never happened. But, that was then and this is now.

Personally, I would much rather see Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, or Michael Gallup be worked more into the offensive game plan. I just feel that we have already seen what Brice Butler has to offer and it just wasn't good enough for him to stick around before. It's time to move forward, not back.

There is a reason Butler was a free agent. I mean, he wasn't even good enough to stick with Arizona Cardinals, who probably have more problems at WR than the Cowboys. But who knows? Maybe I'll end up being wrong and he'll finally play up to his true potential and talent. Wouldn't that be great?

Now, this is just one person's opinion, but I just don't see Brice Butler improving the passing game for the Dallas Cowboys. I think the only way that happens is if Dak Prescott reaches the next phase in his development. Until then, I don't see things improving much. But, that's an article for another time.

How do you feel about the Dallas Cowboys reuniting with Brice Butler?



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Star Blog

Despite Seattle’s Record, Sunday Is No Cakewalk For Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Blog - 2016 Contract-Year Cowboys: DT David Irving 2

As Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a game-ending pick six on national television Monday night, all of Cowboys Nation was suddenly giddy.

Somehow, the team which looked completely lost and inept offensively to open the season was now staring down a chance at a 3-1 start if they could take care of back-to-back winless teams.

The first of those winless foes being the Seattle Seahawks.

Though the last 5 years or so have conditioned us to believe that Seattle is a defensive minded, physical football team, more recent history suggests they’ve fallen off quite a bit. No longer are prime Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor patrolling their secondary, or are waves of top tier defensive linemen cycling through during the game.

Now, the Seahawks are defined by a shaky offensive line, a lack of playmakers on the perimeter, and Russell Wilson hero-ball.

It’s an odd, and typically ineffective formula for winning games, but it’s the one the 0-2 Seahawks are currently stuck with.

Despite all of this, however, Sunday’s game will be an important test for the Cowboys. Though they were favored by 3 points last week, this game is the first time in 2018 that Dallas is truly “expected” to win. Ironically, they come in as Vegas underdogs, but it’s difficult to find informed football analysts who are on Seattle this Sunday.

This, of course, has more to do with how poor Seattle has played to open their season, but they’ve still been incredibly competitive in both losses, losing both games by just one possession.

Going to Seattle and getting a win is a task teams have dreaded for years, even before Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom brought the Seahawks back to relevancy.Earl Thomas, Seahawks

Now when you add in factors such as this being Seattle’s home opener, and that they will be desperately fighting to avoid a potential season-killing 0-3 start, this is shaping up to be a very tough test for the Cowboys.

The young Cowboys need to handle their business the next two weeks and take advantage of 0-2 conference foes. These games will be huge down the stretch for potential playoff tie breakers and give them a chance to “fatten up” before entering the more challenging parts of their schedule.

Like two match ups with the Philadelphia Eagles, and running the rest of the NFC South gauntlet during the later months of the year.



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