Why a fullback doesn't make sense for Cowboys

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
10:55
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys seemed to make a lot of fans happy on Tuesday when they signed a fullback. It wasn’t Lawrence Vickers, which still had some upset, but at least Tyler Clutts actually has played fullback in an NFL game.

To me, however, the signing does not make a lot of sense.

The Cowboys’ pro personnel department deserves a lot of credit for finding guys. George Selvie, Nick Hayden and Jarius Wynn have all helped this year. You can go back to last year for guys like Ernie Sims, Sterling Moore and Eric Frampton. And who can forget the Laurent Robinson signing?

This is not a knock on Clutts, who was described by a personnel chief as a “workmanlike lead blocker.” He might be another solid find. I just don’t see how he fits in what the Cowboys do well in their running game.

The weather will be cold in Chicago on Monday. It could be cold when the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins. And Jason Garrett keeps saying you want to be a physical team in December. I get all of that, but what the Cowboys do best when they run the ball is spread the field with three wide receivers.

Maybe it’s the curse of Tony Fiammetta, another pro department find who helped DeMarco Murray bust out in 2011. The fullback is a revered spot around here, going back to Walt Garrison and leading us to Daryl Johnston.

But it is also a dying position with offenses designed to pass the ball more or run out of “11 personnel,” like the Cowboys.

The Cowboys offensive line is not the ‘90s version of the Cowboys’ line. They do not overpower people. The scheme is not really a power scheme. They look to create creases, not gaping holes. Nate Newton and Larry Allen are not walking through that door to do that.

Murray is averaging 5.5 yards per carry for his career when he runs out of three-wide receiver looks. This year the Cowboys have gained 531 yards on 114 carries and scored five touchdowns out of 11 personnel. Against the Raiders they had 92 yards on 11 carries in 11 personnel. Lance Dunbar’s 45-yard run came out of 11 personnel. Even without that run the Cowboys averaged 4.7 yards a pop when they ran out of three-wides.

So this brings me to Clutts. Will he play five snaps a game? Is it worth it? Was using a tight end or linebacker Kyle Bosworth at fullback that bad? Not really.

The Cowboys could have gone a number of different ways in replacing Dunbar, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury. They worked out Clutts and a handful of other runners that have barely made their mark in the NFL. Would any of those guys helped? If you’re going to look for a runner, find a tested runner -- even one that has not played this year -- who might have six weeks left in him.

The better move would have been to poach from a practice squad. They did it late last year with tackle Darrion Weems. Maybe he develops into a backup. Maybe he never develops. But they at least had the chance to develop a player. They could look at any position really. In my Five Wonders post, I wondered why they don’t add a No. 3 quarterback for the stretch run. He’d be inactive for the final four games anyway, so at least get a guy in here to learn how they do things as they head into the offseason.

Maybe Clutts will help the running game, but statistics suggest otherwise.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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