Today I end my series on the Cowboys running game, and the role fullbacks and H-back have and will play in it by offering four conclusions:
1. Strick around a while, Mr. Anderson. Deon Anderson is one of this year's "black hats" the small list of Cowboys fans love to hate. I've been guilty of downplaying his value myself, but the numbers prove me wrong. With perennials Flozell Adams, Cory Proctor and Bobby Carpenter joining Roy Williams the safety on the out list, Anderson will nonetheless inch up a bit to a spot nearer Roy Williams the receiver atop the bad Cowboys totem.
Don't make the same mistake. Yes, his receiving skills leave a lot to be desired, but fullback, as I demonstrated on Wednesday, retains a very important role in the Cowboys run attack. Compare the average number of snaps from scrimmage Anderson took last year, compared to 3rd WR Patrick Crayton:
- Crayton -- 21 snaps per game;
- Anderson -- 19 snaps per game
Unless John Phillips takes a quantum leap forward, or Martellus Bennett has a Miles Austin-like breakout which puts Jason Witten on near full-time H-back duty, Deon not only has a fairly secure roster spot, but an important part-time role.
2. Rent, don't buy, Mr. Sicko. Unless Scott Sicko makes a rookie splash, and shows blocking skills which surpass everybody's expectations, the undrafted free agent faces long, long odds. He's already one of the players fans will look to root for, in the Justin Beriault mold, but that 5.4 average Dallas posted from the 22 set last year shows Anderson is the main lead blocker, and it's going to take exceptional, sustained blocking from one of the young TEs to move Deon aside.
3. Maybe Patrick Crayton is on to something. I'm opposed to moving Crayton. Dez Bryant is still a rookie and Roy Williams has never played on par with his talking in a Cowboys uniform, but the large percentage of one-wideout sets suggest that the 4th receiver will barely see the field. Dez Bryant will likely grab those 21 or so snaps Crayton got last year, and Miles Austin will likely get the vast majority of plays when Dallas goes with just one receiver.
Crayton has a lot of value to Dallas as an insurance receiver, but he may have little more beyond that. I doubt the 4th wideout gets more than four or five snaps a game in 2010.
4. Keep your eyes on the guards. The Cowboys running attack has its strengths but the tell on any eventual return to dominance will come from improved guard play, not from any dramatic change in fullback or tight end play. When the Cowboys can find two big youngster who can plow defensive tackles into the astroturf the coaches can won't have to bring in three support blockers in addition to the linemen. They can make do with two. They'll be able to run regularly when the team is facing a 3rd and goal from the four yard line.
The team will be able to regularly convert 3rd-and-goal from the one!
In the meantime, super-size your game-time snacks and beverages of choice. If the Cowboys are going to keep running heavy, and I expect them to do it again, you may as well load up with them.