7/12/13. NEWS FLASH -- COWBOYS CUT LAWRENCE VICKERS IN ADVANCE OF TRAINING CAMP -- MAKING THE VAFAN LOOK LIKE A TOTAL MORON FOR WRITING THIS FANPOST!!!!
If you'd now like to ridicule me below, please have at it!!! I'm fair game. LOL! (But be careful. If the Cowboys sign an actual fullback before the season starts, the tide may turn again! Double LOL!!)
There have been tons of stories written this offseason about how the Cowboys are going to use the 12 personnel more now that they've drafted Gavin Escobar and signed Dante Rosario as tight ends to go with Jason Witten and James Hanna. Meanwhile, these same stories conclude that Lawrence Vickers and a "fullback" is all but gone, with the tight ends able to fill in on the occasional plays where Dallas will run with a blocking back out of the backfield.
I'M HERE TO PROVE TO YOU THAT THIS IS ALL WRONG.
If you read Bob Sturm's excellent blog Live from Lewisville, where he breaks down the personnel groups for each game, you will see that the fullback is NOT dead in Jason Garrett's offense, and the 12 personnel is NOT going to supplant the use of plays using a lead backfield blocker.
Moreover, despite the fact that the 12 personnel IS used a lot by Garrett, there is no need to have 4 tight ends to run it.
Lastly, we can also conclude that a tight end who is 6-4 or taller is NOT as good as a lead blocker as a true fullback like Lawrence Vickers, who is 6 feet even.
TO PROVE THESE POINTS, LET'S LOOK AT STURM'S DATA FOR 2011 AND 2012.
First, 2011. Bob has a nice table for 2011 in this post.
The Cowboys ran 1007 offensive plays.
12 personnel was used in 224 plays. (12 is 1 RB, 2 TE)
21, 22, or 23 personnel was used in 215 plays. (21 is 2 RB, 1 TE, 22 is 2 and 2, 23 is 2 and 3)
From this we can conclude two things.
- The 12 is NOT going to supplant the 21, 22, and 23 looks any time soon. You don't change your offense so much that you jettison formations used more than 20% of the time.
- You can run a LOT of 12 formations -- more than 22% of the plays and the second highest used behind Shotgun 11 (1 RB, 1 TE) -- with only 3 TEs on the roster -- in this case Witten, Bennett, and Phillips.
Some other facts. More running plays were out of 22 (111) than 12 (98) and the YPC was far higher (5.5 v. 4.2). This despite the fact we still had Martellus Bennett as a blocking TE.
Now, it may be true that the Cowboys run some 21, 22, and 23 with a TE subbing as the second RB. In 2011, this was true as Tony Fiammetta was hurt and missed 6 games in 2011. But it is one thing to have a fullback hurt and use a TE as the backup, and it's another thing to go into a season WITHOUT a fullback expecting a TE to be your lead blocker out of the backfield for 16 games.
Who's going to do it? James Hanna didn't do it last year. Gavin Escobar hasn't done it. I'm pretty confident without even looking it up that Dante Rosario hasn't done it much. Jason Witten has certainly done it, but does anyone think the Cowboys want to use Jason Witten as the lead blocker on 150+ running plays? NO. The idea is RIDICULOUS.
Second, 2012. Bob didn't do a wrap-up post this year, unfortunately. So I had to assemble the stats myself based on his week-to-week write ups. I'm not going to make a pretty table. Instead, I'll provide the opponent, the total number of plays, followed by the number of plays using 2 RBs, which I'll write as __ FB, followed by the number of plays using 12 personnel, which I'll write as __ TE. I'll also make some notes.
Wk 1. NY - 57 plays, 22 FB, 8 TE. (Won the game and were ahead, which led to more runs.)
Wk 2. Sea - 57 plays, 15 FB, 7 TE. (Behind most of game, fewer runs.)
Wk 3. TB - 66 plays, 15 FB, 10 TE. (Close win.)
Wk 4. Chi - 68 plays, 11 FB, 4 TE. (Far behind, scrapped everything for S11)
Wk 5. Balt - 79 plays, 13 FB, 32 TE. (Best running game all year, lost on missed FG at end.)
Wk 6 Car - 65 plays, 16 FB, 14 TE. (Won game.)
Wk 7 NY - 83 plays, 11 FB, 15 TE. (Fell behind big early. Almost passed them at end. Dez's hand on end line.)
Wk 8 Atl - 54 plays, 10 FB, 9 TE (Lost game.)
Wk 9 Phi - 54 plays, 21 FB, 6 TE (Won game, ran more.)
Wk 10 Cle - 78 plays, 12 FB, 5 TE (Won with furious rally by throwing the ball.)
Wk 11 WA - 75 plays, 5 FB, 4 TE (Huge deficit led to all S11 attack.)
Wk 12 Phi - 62 plays, 25 FB, 6 TE (Beat Philly again with big dose of 2 back attack)
Wk 13 Cin - 70 plays, 17 FB, 6 TE (Won close game. Rallied through air.)
Wk 14 Pitt - 70 plays, 12 FB, 11 TE (Won close game.)
Wk 15 NO - 56 plays, 7 FB, 3 TE (Big deficit; tried to rally with S11.)
Wk 16 WA - 61 plays, 20 FB, 3 TE (Close game lost at end on INT.)
What conclusions can we draw from this 2012 data?
- The 2-back sets predominated in 2012 over the 2 TE sets, 232 to 143, out of 1055 plays.
- We used the running sets more in games where we won or were ahead, and tended to junk them when we fell way behind.
- Vickers, Hanna, and Phillips were healthy for all 16 games last year. So, while Vickers did not block as well as Tony Fiammetta did the year before, it looks like the much bigger drop off in personnel usage was the 2 TE set once Martellus Bennett left for NY.
When you compare 2011 and 2012, you see that the 2 RB sets remained fairly constant -- 215 plays out of 1007 in 2011 (21%) and 232 plays out of 1055 in 2012 (22%). But 2 TE sets dropped from 224 of 1007 (22%) to 143 of 1055 (14%).
I chalk up the difference to two things: (1) the fact Dallas was behind in most games meant they had to chuck the 2 TE attack for 11 or S11 to air it out to wide receivers, and (2) Dallas missed Martellus Bennett's blocking more than most people think.
Overall, looking at this data tells me that Lawrence Vickers is almost certainly going to make the roster unless he's not healthy enough to play.
Dallas isn't going to junk the 2 RB look. It was the more consistent formation between 2011 and 2012. And it's the formation likely to be used when Dallas is ahead and trying to run out the clock. Let's hope that's going to happen MORE often in 2013 than it happened in 2012.
And, since Dante Rosario isn't going to supplant Witten, Hanna, or Escobar on the Cowboys roster, he's very unlikely to make the final roster. We don't need 4 TEs to run 225-250 plays with 12 personnel, even if we return to those levels like it's 2011. If we want a better blocking TE in short yardage, I suggest we use a spare tackle or guard in the role.