Jason Garrett is at times a contradictory man. He seems to fully embrace new ideas and concepts, but there is also a strong traditionalist streak in him. Under him, you have a Dallas Cowboys team that is using virtual reality, drones, and any creative idea to squeeze as much out of the CBA limited practices as possible, but that also seems determined to keep a fullback on the roster at a time when the position is clearly on the endangered species list for most NFL teams.
Maybe it is because in his playing days there was a Cowboy named Daryl "Moose" Johnston who was very good at what he did. He did not carry the ball much, but he led Emmitt Smith on a lot of his runs, and he was also a good target for Troy Aikman, slipping out of the backfield to provide a target in the space cleared out by the other receivers. In his eleven year career, he caught 294 passes for over 2,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also rushed the ball 232 times and added eight touchdowns on the ground. That's two touchdowns a year (each of which was greeted with the "MOOOOOOSE" cheers).
With Garrett wedded to having the position on the roster, for whatever reason, it would stand to reason that the Cowboys might want to come up with some more ways to use it than just lead blocking (although in the right circumstances that is also a very good thing to do). The likely fullback this season is Tyler Clutts, who is entering his third season with Dallas. Compared to Moose, Clutts is hardly used. He has had no carries in the regular season over his entire five year career, and he has only caught two passes (although one of them was for a touchdown). Last regular season, Clutts was only on the field for 163 plays. Still, that is ten plays he is out there on average each game. In camp this year, he has been forced into playing some running back due to ["I" word redacted] issues with Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and now Joseph Randle. And he has had some surprisingly productive carries running behind that vaunted offensive line. Garrett and Scott Linehan are very smart and observant. Could they perhaps see a way to get Clutts more involved in the scheme based on the developments in Oxnard?
The conventional way to use the fullback is to leak him out of the backfield the way Johnston used to do as a target for the quarterback or to hand him the ball off on a quick hitter. Since having him on the field means the team is either in a 21 or 22 personnel grouping, that means he is normally going to be out there on running downs. This is where the quick hitter to the fullback can sometimes catch the defense keying on the running back. Tony Romo is a good ball handler and should be able to combine a handoff to Clutts up the middle with a nice fake to the trailing back. It would also allow the team to send the running back out in a pass pattern with Clutts taking the pass protection role, which brings that leaking out of the backfield into play. Now that he is getting so much extra work taking handoffs, the team may want to take advantage of that additional experience. If he beats the linebacker to the hole, there might be some nice yardage to gain.
And then there is the gadget play. Consider this: The Cowboys are in second or third and short (two yards or less). They send out 22 personnel with Gavin Escobar the second tight end with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams the lone wide receiver. But pre-snap, they shift Escobar out wide, move the running back into the slot and keep Clutts as the lone back. Now Romo has a read to make. If the defense keeps eight in the box, he can go with a pass to one of the single covered receivers. If the response by the opponent is to drop into pass coverage to stop a big gain that way, Romo can still hand off to Clutts since they only have to make two yards, and the line should be able to get that much space against seven in the box with Witten still run blocking, allowing Clutts to pick up the first down before contact. It would not be something that could be run often - but once it has been used, especially if it succeeds, it gives future teams something to have to worry about. It could be really effective on a second down play and the team would still have another down to convert if it doesn't work.
Obviously no one on the Dallas staff cares what I think, but this is intriguing stuff for speculation. And if you are going to carry a fullback instead of some other position on the roster, why not get as much out of it as you can?