All John Masefield wanted was a tall ship and a star to steer her by. As a Cowboys fan, all I want is a tough fullback with gaping holes to run through.
You know, it’s interesting. More people probably know more about Lawrence Vickers’ ants in his pants than his talent as a fullback. I get that, and it’s Twitter’s fault. It’s easier to put that and a snarky remark in 140 characters, along with a dig at Jerry Jones, than it is to examine what Lawrence Vickers has done as a fullback and how this is going to help the Cowboys. Hopefully, this article will educate you on what a treasure we got in the pirate bay of free agency.
First off, take a listen to the first two minutes here of Vickers’ interview with 105.3 The Fan’s Richie and Greggo. If you go for emotion and “rah rah” type of things, you’ll like his interview. I’ll bet you never heard talk like that out of Lousaka Polite or Oliver Hoyte. It does inspire optimism. And right there, you can see Vickers fits, not only Garrett’s mold of being a “right kind of guy” (get used to seeing RKG, by the way), but Garrett’s mold of wanting to be a more physical team.
What really conjures pollyanna feelings are the numbers Vickers has helped put up for his teams in his career. Vickers started off his career with the Browns in 2006 as a sixth round pick. He sat behind Terrelle Smith in his rookie season, and also the Browns were starting Rueben Droughns as their runningback. The Browns finished 31st in rushing yards and 28th in rushing touchdowns.
In 2007, along with the acquisition of Jamaal Lewis, Vickers started all season as fullback. Lewis rushed for over 1,300 yards and had 10 touchdowns, a feat not accomplished since 2003. The Browns finished 10th in rushing yards and 13th in rushing touchdowns. The Pro Bowl voters — not the average palookas that stuff the ballots on NFL.com; players and coaches — knew who was responsible and thus Vickers earned a Pro Bowl alternate for his efforts.
The next season was when the Browns got back to being below pedestrian on the ground. They were 26th in rushing yards and 31st in rushing touchdowns with only six. It should be noted that Vickers only played 12 games that season, so it is likely his injuries and Lewis’ decline contributed to this poor rushing result.
At the conclusion of 2009, the Browns’ rushing game was close to its 2007 form. The Browns finished 8th in rushing yards with 20th place in rushing touchdowns. During this season, Jerome Harrison started taking over for Jamaal Lewis. Vickers played in all 16 games.
2010 was when Vickers proved he wasn’t the “96 Tears” in the billboard charts of football. Although the Browns finished 20th in rushing yards and 12th in rushing touchdowns, Peyton Hillis made the Madden cover with his 1,100-yard performance. The next season, while injured, he only averaged 3.6 yards compared to the 4.4 he averaged in 2010 rushing behind our Lawrence Vickers.
Here’s where you have to pay attention, because the realistists will point out Vickers’ performance in 2011 with the Texans wasn’t that beneficial to Arian Foster. In fact, Foster’s numbers declined. And it’s all true. However, the Texans finished 2nd in rushing yards and 3rd in rushing touchdowns. In the previous four seasons with Vonta Leach, their rushing yards totals alone were 7th, 30th, 13th, and 22nd respectively. Furthermore, while Foster’s personal stats went down, Ben Tate neared 1,000 yards himself. Compare that to Steve Slaton’s 350-some odd yards the previous years.
And check this out: Vickers missed two games in 2011, one against Jacksonville (lulz) and another against the Falcons. Against Jacksonville, the Texans rushed 31 times for only 88 yards and a touchdown. Against Atlanta, they rushed 44 times for only 162 yards and a touchdown.
It was Vickers. After running the numbers, I’m just as bemused as he is as to why they just outright cut him. I guess they want to suck this year. Just take a look at their signing of Bradie James and Alan Ball.
Tony Fiammetta’s performance last year made the fan base conscious of fullbacks again. But with Fiammetta’s mysterious inner ear sickness that kept him out later in the year, the focus turned to free agency. Other than Lawrence Vickers, the only notable fullbacks on the market were Le’Ron McClain, Owen Schmitt, Mike Tolbert, and Earnest Graham. When you tally the figures of Vickers’ career, particularly last year, it’s evident we got the best fullback.
The next question becomes whether or not he can fit in Callahan’s zone blocking scheme. Well, Gary Kubiak is Shanahan’s former offensive coordinator, so they run precisely that down in Houston. So we already have that question answered positively. Furthermore, as I already told you back in March, some Steelers fans are bitter about not scoring Vickers in free agency. And if you listened to that first two minutes of Vickers’ interview with RAGE, you’ll hear Greggo tell of his Browns fan friend who lauded Vickers.
Runningbacks coach Skip Peete says that it won’t be until training camp until Vickers and the runningbacks develop chemistry. Vickers himself said he plans to adjust his game to our stable of runningbacks. Nonetheless, I think we’re going to have a solid running game lead by a formidable fullback come November and December when we need the ground attack the most.
Of all the seasons in Vickers’ career that makes me the most optimistic about this season is his year with the Texans. It’s not because it was last year; it’s really not so much it was the zone blocking scheme. It’s because he helped make a name for Ben Tate too. Demarco Murray and Felix Jones are just as talented as those two, so I fully expect one of them to crack the 1,000 yard mark in 2012.
Fullback is another position where the Cowboys have made a significant upgrade. I fully expect to see a more commanding running attack in 2012.