FanPost

New Vicar To Shepherd Cowboys Running Game

Another great piece from Keg promoted from the FanPosts. -- Dave

There is no position as unassumingly demanding and oft forgotten as the NFL fullback. In a league ruled and marketed towards the growth of passing focused offenses, this blue-collar position is disappearing as quickly as the middle class (sorry, couldn't resist). But these broken-nosed, jack-of-all-trades ironmen are still in the NFL, colliding and crashing into the opposition, martyrs to the trenches rarely receiving the glory of their deeds.

One of the best fullbacks in the history of the NFL, and to many a personal Cowboys favorite, Daryl "Moose" Johnston was the perfect, all-purpose fullback, the only kind that may survive in the future NFL. In a way, Moose was the reflection of the great teammates around him, a nexus of all their best qualities. He had the competitive spirit of Michael Irvin, like Jay Novacek had soft hands and could find soft spots in defenses, he could pick-up blitzes and seal running lanes as well as Mark Stepnoski, and he had the heart and work ethic of Emmitt Smith. Now, besides the fact this man deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, or at the very least the Ring of Honor...

The Dallas Cowboys recently picked up an accomplished all-purpose fullback. Cowboys fans continue to discuss the injuries at fullback and the interior o-line that led to inconsistent performances by Dallas' rushing attack. Pretty soon, I expect we'll be discussing how much improved the Cowboys running game appears in 2012. DeMarco Murray will continue to be praised, building on his success in 2011. Felix Jones will appear rejuvenated, splitting carries and long touchdowns pretty evenly with DMM. The potential and growth of the Yuglies will be discussed with excitement. As fan awards shower down upon the team, I hope (my projections are true) we don't overlook Lawrence Vickers.

Let's take a look at what Lawrence Vickers has done during his career...

Oh, yeah, this rarely heralded position doesn't even have any specific statistical categories. Well, Lawrence Vickers was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 2006 draft. He ended up winning the starting role late in his rookie season. Durability in a position based on high-impact contact? Vickers has missed six games in a six season career. While he hasn't been used as a rusher or receiver much in his NFL career, just a bulldozer to clear paths, he does have four NFL seasons with a 7+ yard receiving average. But his college career is more telling, where he actually was used much more like a running back. Scouting reports had his blocking and size as negatives (though he has grown into a 250 lb blocking machine), and discussed his ability to run for tough yards and catch out of the backfield. In three seasons as a starter at fullback, Vickers rushed 164 times (mostly short-yardage situations) with a 3.7 yard average, and averaged 8.2 yards with 70 receptions. (stats from sports-reference.com) While I think DeMarco Murray is enough of a power rusher to excel in short-yardage situations, Lawrence Vickers provides Garrett an interesting option.

In his NFL career (mostly with the Browns) Vickers has been used primarily as a blocker. In his five seasons as a starter, he has quite the resume...at least when looking at the leading rushers who benefited from his work.

Year Team Leading Rusher Avg/Rush Interesting facts
07 CLE Jamal Lewis 4.4 2nd best career avg. and 8th season in league
08 CLE Jamal Lewis 3.6 Mentioned later
09 CLE Jerome Harrison 4.4 Only season he rushed over 40 times - nearly 200
10 CLE Peyton Hillis 4.4 2nd best career avg.
11 HOU Arian Foster 4.4 Rookie Ben Tate averaged 5.4 yards on 175 attempts.

Wow!

A different leading rusher nearly every season, and they often had one of the best rushing averages in their career. I understand that judging a fullback by another's production is dreadfully inadequate and open to many other variables, like offensive-lines, but this kind of above average consistency is certainly something to note. It should also be considered that the majority of his career was spent with the Cleveland Browns. A team that has lacked a dangerous passing attack since...Bernie Kosar? Defenses always stacked the box to stop the run and a losing record with big margins meant fewer opportunities to run out games.

In fact, in "his" worst season as a starter, Vickers helped Jamal Lewis average 3.6 yards a carry. That year Lewis was on the threshold of 30 and the Cleveland passing offense accounted for 2,380 yards - 11 TD - 20 Int and the team finished with a 4-12 record. Also, the team rushing average was 3.9 yards. Oh, Vickers also missed four games due to injuries that season, and it makes me wonder if Jamal would have managed 4 yards per carry that year had his favorite fullback not been injured.

Now also nearing 30, Vickers likely doesn't have much time left in his career. But the Texas native has come home. He has brought his experience, work ethic, and bruising nature to the Dallas Cowboys. It may not be for long, but the Vicar could be a seldom discussed, but big-impact signing by Jason Garrett...a man who knows first-hand what a player capable of earning a nickname like Moose can bring to a team.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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