Cowboys must figure out fullback's value

IRVING, Texas – What to do with the fullback on the final roster will be among the Dallas Cowboys ’ toughest decisions.

The "who" right now is easy; the job would go to veteran Tyler Clutts. But it is far from a given that the Cowboys will keep a fullback heading into the regular season.

Clutts joined the Cowboys in the final four games of last season and DeMarco Murray had 424 yards in that span, although not all of it came behind the fullback. But to keep a fullback, the Cowboys might have to carry just three tailbacks or go lighter somewhere else on defense.

“When you talk about the fullback, you talk about the second tight, you talk about the third receiver – those guys that are starters on your team in particular personnel groups,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You’re always kind of counting plays with those guys, you’re evaluating what their special teams role is and you’re evaluating simply their effectiveness and their value to your offense. You want to be a physical football team; having a fullback matters. You want to be a physical football team. That second back in the backfield sometimes provides that oomph that you’re looking for.”

Clutts averaged about 12 plays a game last season. There aren't a lot of short-yardage and goal-line plays to go around in a season, but if the Cowboys want to run more and kill the clock late in games, keeping a fullback could make some sense. Murray said he has no preference as to whether he runs in a one-back or two-back set.

“Typically in the NFL you might have 10, 12, 15 – at the most – goal-line plays over the course of a season,” Garrett said. “And you take every play as if it’s the last play you’ll ever play, but having said that, those goal-line plays matter. Having a guy in there who can do the job for you there and also in some short-yardage situations, that’s an important part of having success on offense.

“So we’ve done it different ways. Different teams have done it different ways, issuing the third tight end. Sometimes you use a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman to help those personnel groups out. But if you have a fullback who is worthy, you can throw him the ball, he can lead-block, he can do some other things and can contribute on special teams. All of a sudden you count up those plays and the importance of those plays and he becomes a valuable commodity.”