Cowboys Still Looking For Answer At Fullback

In football, there are the glamour jobs and the plain ole' working stiff jobs.  The flashy positions start with the quarterback, the real movie stars of the league.  Then you have the flashy receivers, the running backs (especially big with the fantasy guys), and even the tight ends are getting more notice as they become more like big receivers in the pass-focused NFL.  

And on defense, you have the hunter-killer linebackers, the ball hawking cornerbacks, and the safeties manning the last line of defense.

The blue collar guys are the ones in the trenches, the offensive linemen who protect the quarterback and create running lanes, and the defensive linemen who are often mostly there to free up the linebackers (although in the 4-3, the defensive ends can become marquee stars themselves).

And then there is that other working class guy.  The almost forgotten position, the one some teams don't even have anymore.  The fullback.

Dallas still uses the fullback.  But right now, just who they are going to use seems to be more than a little uncertain, and the expected candidates may not be the answer after all.

More after the jump

I must confess, I have had a soft spot for the fullback since a certain Daryl Johnston played the position in Dallas. Moose was, to me, a special kind of player, a man who did his unglamorous job exceedingly well.  He was unassuming, hard working, and based on his broadcasting career, a pretty sharp guy. 

Coming into this season, it was expected that the seventh round draft pick Shaun Chapas would battle Chris Gronkowski, and one would win the fullback position on the roster.  However, as Brandon noted:

Both Chapas and Gronkowski have a good ability to lead into the hole and get a decent block, but neither has that resounding "pop" you'd like to have from your lead blocker. Both are able to stand up the rusher yet neither seems capable of really driving through the block.

If you think that sounds a little worrisome, it appears you have company.  In a column today, Todd Archer reported that the team is trying some other options.

Isaiah Greenhouse is a linebacker by trade, but the Cowboys moved him to fullback on Tuesday.   

And:

He is the second player the Cowboys have moved to fullback after tight end Jason Pociask switched earlier in camp.

So the coaches seem to be trying to find another solution.  Their options seem to come down to these:

-  See how Chapas and Gronk do in the remaining preseason games and take whichever is looking better, whatever their limits are.

-  Switch Greenhouse or another player to fullback and hope that he can learn the position by the start of the season.

-  Use Pociask, Martellus Bennett, and/or John Phillips out of the tight end position to do the lead blocking.  This is an option the Cowboys have gone with in the recent past when the coaches felt there wasn't an adequate fullback.

The first option is the safe one. Chapas and Gronkowski are fullbacks and should know the most about playing the position.  The second position would only seem to be a good one if Greenhouse (who did work at the position some in Houston while on the Texans' practice squad) or some other player really stands out.

I find the third option the most intriguing.  The Cowboys seem to be deep at tight end (if the nearly continuous debate about Phillips versus Bennett is any indication).  If one or more of the tight ends can provide that "pop" it could open up some interesting twists in the offense.  If the lead blocks can come off of motion, it might give the defense less time to react.  Or they line up in the fullback position and motion out of it, something a fullback would not normally do.  As long as the respective player is used both as a tight end and as a fullback, it throws that element of uncertainty into what the team is about to do.  And any of the tight ends would likely provide a better pass catching threat than most fullbacks.  Those of you who have been around long enough may remember Moose slipping through the line for a pass, often down in the red zone.  

This is something to watch in the upcoming games, at least for me.  The decision on fullback may not be as pressing as the defensive back or offensive line positions, but I would guess that Jason Garrett will not be content with anything but the best possible option at every position on the field.

Would we want it any other way?

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