While it is clear that Brandon Carr is the biggest free agent signing by the Dallas Cowboys in 2012, another pickup has gotten nothing but rave reviews in a much less visible position. Fullback Lawrence Vickers was brought in to help improve the running game, and in particular to improve an anemic total of only five rushing touchdowns in 2011.
Although it is still very early, it looks like the Cowboys got everything they were looking for, and more. On a team that has had an unreasonable amount of criticism about a perceived lack of leadership, he has already developed a reputation as exactly that.
Dallas knew that they were getting an excellent blocker, but the word around the locker room is that Vickers has also emerged as vocal leader, especially among the running backs. He downplays the idea that he is especially talkative, but he certainly has a passion for the game that is apparent to his teammates.
"It's just me being myself. I'm not afraid to be myself," says Vickers. "That's what guys like. This is what I do. I play football. I don't do anything else. At the end of the day, this is what I love. This is what I care about. When you love and care about something, you put the initiative to do the things that you need to do, whether that's talking, being the first one out there, not being afraid to say ‘Hey, I mess up too, but I want to fix my mistakes.'"
OK, maybe we do this excessively, but admit it. That just screams Right Kind of Guy.
Some more things about one of the new Cowboys after the jump.
One thing to keep in mind is that Vickers is likely to be working with at least two young running backs this year. At the moment, it seems that the Cowboys will probably be keeping three running backs on the team, DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, and Phillip Tanner. While Jones is a fifth-year veteran, Murray and Tanner are both second year players, and still have a great deal to learn. Plus, given the roles they are likely to play in the offense, Murray and Tanner are likely to be spending much more time following number 47 into the hole. A mentor like Vickers, who is going into his seventh season, can offer them a great deal. And he did not waste any time in stepping into that role, as this report from June 13th shows.
Murray said he will watch film with Vickers on a daily basis and point out plays he likes and what he's looking for after he gets the handoff.Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com
"His eyes are my eyes, and my eyes are his eyes," Murray said. "We're going to continue to work on that and continue to work on the chemistry.
One thing that seemed to emerge last season was that Murray was much more effective when Tony Fiammetta was leading him. But Fiammetta was frequently unavailable due to his inner ear ailment. The team decided to go another direction, and snatched Vickers up when the Houston Texans decided he was too expensive, despite him lead blocking for Arian Foster as he gained 1,224 yards. The Cowboys, and Murray in particular, seem happy.
Murray obviously trusted Fiammetta with a great deal of success, so it's not as though running behind a fullback is some kind of new concept for him. But to those who have asked me whether there's anything to fear about Murray switching from Fiammetta to Vickers my answer is: If you met Lawrence Vickers, you wouldn't have to ask.
"I've got no complaints there," Murray told me. "He's a great guy, a great blocker, a smart guy and he gets after it."
Vickers is not just working with the guy that will run behind him. He is also teaching a player who would be seen by most as a competitor. As Todd Archer put in a tweet (which, for some reason, will not embed tonight):
Lawrence Vickers having impact on Shaun Chapas. Improved lead blocker. Keeping his feet moving.
Not only is Vickers an established force blocking, but he is showing some very nice hands as a receiver. Which makes me remember another fullback that used to wear the Star.
I know, any comparisons to the great Daryl Johnston are rather premature, but when you are a long time Cowboys fan like I am, that just comes rather automatically to mind. It isn't just his skill on the field, but his approach to business, his total lack of any need for the spotlight. Yet Moose is not the only player from the nineties dynasty that Vickers brings to mind. His vocal leadership, his presence in the locker room, and his work ethic also make me think of Michael Irvin. I know that fullback and wide receiver are rather far apart as far as what they do on the field, but Irvin was unquestionably a leader who was not afraid to get up in his teammate's face, and to set the example of what you do to prepare yourself for a game. Nobody worked harder or expected more of himself than Irvin, and it looks like Vickers is bringing the same style to the team. It is a nice combination of the traits of both Moose and the Triplet.
Maybe you could call him a Mooselet.
OK. Maybe not. Let's just call him a very welcome addition to the Dallas Cowboys.