Last week, Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones reaffirmed his faith in the team’s running game going into the 2015 season. Jones went beyond simply assuaging any fears that there would be a drop in production:
"“When you say the entire running game — and that would be including our tight ends, including fullbacks, the entire game — we’re better. We’re better.”"
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His specific mention of fullbacks was no accident, in my opinion. One key to victory in upcoming seasons could already be on the roster: fullback Tyler Clutts.
The fullback position is not particularly glamorous. It has also been largely downplayed by most clubs in recent years, except in obvious running situations (near the goal line, short yardage scenarios, etc). Teams are spreading the offense more to concentrate on the passing game.
Perhaps a shift back to traditional smashmouth football is needed. When combined with the amazing talent on their offensive line, the Cowboys’ increased use of a lead-blocking fullback could be literally game-changing.
Many NFL analysts have predicted that the Cowboys may not have the type of rushing production that they enjoyed in 2014, when they were able to run the ball on nearly 50% of their offensive plays.
Running back DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing for the team, with over 1800 yards. He is now with the Philadelphia Eagles, as painful as that is for me to write.
There have been rumors for months that the Cowboys would orchestrate a trade to get running back Adrian Peterson away from the Minnesota Vikings. While nothing is impossible, this seems to be less and less likely as time passes.
Jones and Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett both seem content to proceed with a committee approach to the running game. They signed running back Darren McFadden from the Oakland Raiders in the offseason. The team still has several other running backs on the roster, with Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, and Ryan Williams all vying for positions on the depth chart.
Frankly, none of these guys have had brilliant careers in the NFL up to this point. Could Clutts change that?
At this point, they are carrying two fullbacks and four running backs on their roster. These six men will likely compete for four spots on the final 53-man roster before the season begins.
In my humble opinion, the expanded use of the fullback position is something that could help this team win another Super Bowl. As such, Clutts could quickly become a household name, much like former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston.
The expanded use of the fullback position is something that could help this team win another Super Bowl.
Johnston helped the team to three Super Bowl victories in the 90’s, and he blocked for Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith for most of his career. On the day that Smith broke the all-time NFL rushing record at Texas Stadium, he credited Johnston directly, telling him, “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
While Smith was clearly an indispensable part of the Cowboys’ offense throughout his career there, Johnston was certainly a part of the success equation as well.
Former backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg is credited with giving Johnston his nickname. During offensive meetings, he noticed that the 6’2” fullback towered over the other running backs. He said, “You look like a moose in a herd of deer.” The nickname stuck, and fans would relish the chance to yell, “MOOOOOOOSE!” whenever Johnston touched the ball.
By the way, Tyler Clutts is also 6’2”, and he’s listed at 260 pounds, outweighing Johnston by nearly 20.
Has the time come for another Moose?
Well, there are enough similarities to the Cowboys 1990’s squad for this to merit serious consideration for coaches. Both teams can boast of having the best offensive line for their respective years, along with a top-notch quarterback, Pro Bowl tight end, and one of the most talented and driven wide receivers in professional football.
Granted, the 90’s squad also had Smith, who was an incredibly tough and durable runner. He even had one of the gutsiest performances ever witnessed. He famously helped defeat the New York Giants after sustaining a separated shoulder late in the first half of a critical game in 1992.
If any of the running backs proves to be half as durable as Smith, making Clutts a more integral part of the offensive attack could bring incredible dividends.
If so, I hope he ends up with a cool nickname, too.