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McCarthy’s Cowboys: We Should Expect FB Sewo Olonilua to Stick Around

After Jamize Olawale decided to opt-out of the 2019 NFL season, Sewo Olonilua emerged as a strong candidate to make the roster to give the Dallas Cowboys a starter at fullback. The undrafted rookie from TCU had a solid career as a running back in college but it’s his versatility that makes him a serious 53-man roster candidate.

However, with training camp underway, Olonilua has faced some competition from Darius Anderson and Rico Dowdle. Based on reports from Cowboys Camp, it sounds like it’s Dowdle who has emerged as the leading RB3 for the team.

It’s unlikely the Cowboys want to go into the regular season with three running backs and a fullback considering they’ve got a three-down starter in Ezekiel Elliott. So really, the debate will revolve around two scenarios.

Do they keep two running backs and a fullback who’s versatile enough to play as the third RB? Or do they keep three running backs, one of which is versatile enough to play the role of a lead blocker?

While many have pointed toward the fact that the Cowboys haven’t really put much emphasis at fullback, that could change under Mike McCarthy’s coaching staff. True, the Cowboys used Jamize Olawale in only 10.5% of the team snaps in 2019 (the snap counts don’t get better for the fullback position if you go look up previous years, by the way) but Mike McCarthy did.

In the last five years, the Cowboys didn’t use a fullback more than 13% of the snaps in a single season.* Now let’s take a look at Mike McCarthy’s last five full seasons at Green Bay and his starting FB:

  • 2017: Aaron Ripkowski, 17%
  • 2016: Aaron Ripkowski, 27%
  • 2015: John Kuhn, 27%
  • 2014: John Kuhn, 18%
  • 2013: John Kuhn: 28%

*All snap counts are retrieved from Pro Football Reference. In 2017, Rod Smith is listed as a fullback with over 20% of the snaps. However, that number increased due to Elliott’s suspension when Smith had to fill in at running back and isn’t really relevant. 

“But hey, aren’t fullbacks extinct?” you might ask, but no, they aren’t.

In fact, fullbacks are still in the NFL, and teams that use them properly get a lot out of them. In 2019, 21 personnel was the most efficient grouping in terms of yards per play, EPA per play, and success rate across the league, per Warren Sharp’s remarkable thread on fullbacks.

Although many will mention Tony Pollard as the guy to group with Zeke for 21 personnel lineups, there are different things a true fullback can bring to the table, especially because they create matchup problems for opposing defenses. Why not mix it up?

No Title

Let’s talk fullbacksFBs provide a key value that often gets overlooked, even in the spread passing age of the NFLFrom the father of the West Coast offense, Bill Walsh:”The FB is the most critical part of our passing game because he’s the one that’s most difficult to handle” pic.twitter.com/s2zOmvm3Jf

If Sewo Olonilua has the better skill set to become a full-time fullback for the Dallas Cowboys, he might be the best option for the 53-man roster behind Elliott and Tony Pollard.

McCarthy is a head coach who never stopped using fullbacks on his offenses and as he leans toward analytics trends, he might be all-in in keeping one on the team as the Cowboys expect to be Super Bowl contenders in 2020.

Tell me what you think about “McCarthy’s Cowboys: We Should Expect FB Sewo Olonilua to Stick Around” in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

What do you think?

Mauricio Rodriguez

Written by Mauricio Rodriguez

I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @MauNFL.

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  1. There’s another option…use Blake Bell AKA The Bell Dozer as an H-Back.

    This has the additional benefit of not tipping their hand to the Defense. Bell being in the huddle tells them nothing. He could line up at TE or FB. Even if he initially lines up at one or the other, it still doesn’t tip their hand as he could just as easily pass block or leak out for a screen or as an outlet receiver as run block from the backfield. Lined up inline he can either run block or go out as a receiver…or fake run block and then go out as a receiver.

    There’s so much more flexibility with him as an H-Back compared to using a traditional FB. IMHO, he would also make Noah Brown expendable as a “blocking WR”.

    • Good concept, only thing the defense would know is that he won’t get a handoff. Other thing is that if he’s still in the backfield when the bank is snapped, it might a good idea to follow him because that’s where Zeke/Pollard are headed? But that could work in favor of the offense as well, if used correctly. Good post.

  2. But if Zeke and Pollard are out we have no RB as Bell is not a RB at all. I like Olonilua as 3rd back. Big enuf to have blocking value but also a strong runner (from what I heard) but good job thinking outside the box.

  3. Bell was mostly a running QB at Oklahoma before being moved to TE when Baker Mayfield took over: https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/blake-bell-1.html

    Hence the nickname “The Belldozer”. 😉

    Point taken on not wanting him to take too many snaps as a rusher if Zeke went down. Although, an occasional one would be a nice way to throw the defense off balance and give future opponents something else to think about.

    I would rather see Olonilua and the winner of the Dowdle/Anderson battle stashed on the PS. Olonilua would get more time to learn the FB position, provide a FB to simulate plays for the defense and be available for call up in case of injury.

    I guess it really all comes down to numbers and versatility. I’d rather see them roll with Bell as an H-Back/ST and protect DiNucci as a 3rd QB and not have to go short somewhere else than to keep Olonilua as a dedicated FB/3rd RB/ST player.

    • I like your thinking Wolfz, but we don’t need to save a roster spot for DiNucci, unless I’m wrong. But as I understand it, we get to have a non-roster emergency QB suit up for every game. And with the additional 4 new practice squad spots, all of which can be protected from poachers, we can both protect and use DiNucci without costing a roster spot. At least that’s my understanding …

  4. Good points lone wolf….. ur not partial to ur Sooner boys are u? Ha but yea Alot great pros have come out of OU ! Them boys get coached up there. Olonilua may be looked on as a possible lead back down the road as well. He was underused in College and could be a hidden gem just scratching the surface. But I trust the coaches will make the right moves regarding roster, and things will remain fluid right up till game time.

    • All except for Lane Johnson and Jalen Hurts. They are dead to me. LOL

      I wasn’t a big fan of the Gallimore pick. He played way out of control at OU. He’s got great burst and a motor that won’t quit, but spent way too much time on the ground or running himself out of plays. The motor allowed him to get back into plays, but hopefully, he gets coached up to maintain control and balance.

    • Adrian Peterson is hands down the best, but I always had a soft spot for Billy Sims. He was the first one I remember and helped me fall in love with the Sooners.

      • Sims is among my favorites as well. Greg Pruitt and Joe Washington as well. Even had some QB’s back in the day who could run (Thomas Lott, Jamiel Halloway) … loved watching those teams!

  5. Thought Hurts to Eagles was an interesting pick. U would know more. but he seemed like a project at QB. But with Wentz injury history, makes sense to have a viable back up, but would have made more sense to have a veteran rather then an unpolished QB who is a few yr away from stepping into that role. Is Lamb the best WR u have seen come thru there? Longhorns probably think so after what he did to them last yr. He made their secondary look silly at times. HOOK EM!

    • That’s a tough one, but I’d say Lamb is certainly one of the best all-around WR’s to come out of Oklahoma. Mark Clayton would have to be in the running as best all-time, especially considering the era he played in.

      Ryan Broyles was a beast a decade or so ago. His height and speed were against him in the NFL though. I lost track of him after he went to Detroit. I would have loved to see him as a slot receiver. The same goes for Sterling Shepard a few years ago. Kenny Stills was darn good too. Then there was Marquise Brown who only played two seasons, but was a rocket when he was healthy. But he’s very one dimensional.

      I’d have a hard time choosing between Mark Clayton and CeeDee Lamb.

  6. Unfortunately none of those players you mention had that success follow them to the NFL. (at least not yet) Stills and Shephard have been ok so far. Lamb has a great opportunity to break that trend. IMO

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