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Cowboys Camp Battles: Who's Behind Jason Witten And Lawrence Vickers At TE and FB?

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Jason Witten is one Dallas Cowboys player who is not really being challenged for his job.
Jason Witten is one Dallas Cowboys player who is not really being challenged for his job.

In my previous post about the Dallas Cowboys and the battles in training camp, I looked at the quarterbacks and running backs together, more because breaking it up would have led to rather short posts than for any other reason. The same thinking applies in combining the fullback and tight end position, but there is also a logic in looking at these two together. In blocking schemes, these two personnel groups can be used interchangeably. When Dallas was struggling in 2011 due to the inner ear problems with fullback Tony Fiammetta, John Phillips would often motion into a lead blocking position. So it the two jobs do go together.

Also, just like quarterback and running back, there is no doubt who the starter is, and in the case of the tight end, who is number two. This is all about backing up those stars. There just aren't a lot of vacancies here, because there are likely only four total roster spots available, three for tight ends and only one for a fullback.

That three tight end figure might be a maximum, and the team could go with just two on the final 53. This is not so much because the team may need that roster spot somewhere else (although that is a valid consideration), but because the talent pool is, well, kind of shallow here. Even though Dallas spent a sixth round pick at the position, I am not sure that there is a player good enough to keep as the third TE that will show up in Oxnard for training camp. But I am not sure Jason Garrett would want to go with only two. He does like to run some two tight end formations, and that means you cannot handle any injuries at the position. Obviously, injuries are going to happen, so the likely decision will be to find that third man. Which means the team may have to look elsewhere.

Related: Cowboys Camp Battles: Quarterbacks And Running Backs

Fullback is the only offensive or defensive position that commonly goes one deep in the NFL, if teams use the position at all. Dallas does, and showed how valuable it is considered by going after one of the best in the league during free agency. Frankly, the other fullback candidates in camp cannot really hope for much besides a possible practice squad job, unless they can just knock some socks off on special teams. But the odds are very good that there is going to be at least a PS job available for one of these guys. When Fiammetta was out last year, a certain DeMarco Murray just did not seem as potent. I don't think the Cowboys want to see that happen again, so they need some other plan. A fullback fallback, if you will.

I'm sorry for writing that. It's a genetic flaw, I think.

My full breakdown of all the certain and possible players after the jump.


Player Comments Chances

Lawrence Vickers

My vote for most underrated offseason move by the Cowboys. All reports are that he is a devastating blocker and a dynamic leader. The only negative I have heard is that he does not improvise as well as the departed Tony Fiammetta - but he does have healthy ears. He is the real reason I expect DeMarco Murray to break the 1,000 yard mark this year. Plus he is pretty effective catching the ball out of the backfield. What is not to like? Unless you are one of the other fullbacks who now have almost zero chance of making the team.

Got the job locked down.

Shaun Chapas

The seventh round pick from 2011 is likely to be looking for a new job soon, with no room on the roster for a backup fullback.

Almost certainly gone.

Isaiah Greenhouse

A converted linebacker, there does not look to be much chance for him to make the team, unless he is some kind of Superman on special teams.

Largely a failed experiment.

Jamize Olawale

The North Texas product may not have as much of a chance at making the roster.

Practice squad would appear to be only hope.

Caleb McSurdy

No, that's not a typo. During his pro day, McSurdy did get worked out as a fullback, and although he insists he just wants to play linebacker, Jason Garrett's belief in "multiplicity" could make this a hole card for McSurdy. Seen as a special teams ace, he could also back up two positions. It may be just enough to get him on the team.

Ironically, I think he has the best chance of all to be a backup for Vickers.

Tight End

Player Comments Chances

Jason Witten

Future Hall of Famer. Arguably the best true tight end in the NFL, as opposed to the tall, physical wide receivers being used in that position around the league. Tony Romo's security blanket. Do you seriously question his status?

I'm talking about Jason freakin' Witten here. He starts.

John Phillips

Now that Martellus Bennett and his hostility issues have moved on, Phillips will get a chance to shine. His history shows him to be a legitimate receiving threat, which Dallas has lacked in the second tight end spot, so he may be of more value than most realize.

Somebody has to give Witten a breather now and then, and Phillips gets the job.

James Hanna

The words "dropped" and "bad hands" keep showing up when I read about Hanna at practice. If that doesn't change, is there anything else we really need to know? Or are you looking for MartyB 2.0? (Well, on the field, anyway. I don't think Hanna raps or designs goofy looking clothes.)

I am doubtful he overcomes his rough start.

John Nalbone

He has been signed by six NFL teams before Dallas - and never played a down for any of them.

I don't think he'll play a down in Dallas, either.

Andrew Szczerba

Great name and all. But did not get the impression he was making much of one in practice.

Practice squad or nothing.

Veteran tight end

I think this may be even more likely than signing a veteran wide receiver. There appears to be some young talent for the Cowboys to work with at wideout, but I don't see it in this bunch. If Garrett wants a third TE, I think he finds it when the cuts start coming.

Barring the light coming on for someone, this is likely.