UDFA Cowboys could take them back to championship-era roster | News from Buenaventura, Colombia and the World
There’s no word on what the Cowboys’ roster will look like when the final cuts are made at the end of training camp. Obviously, a significant portion of the players are almost guaranteed to be part of the club, but some marginal decisions from the list are up in the air and could have major effects on the 2023 scheme and strategy.
The fullback position promises to be one of those. Gone are the glory days of Daryl Johnston. Today, half of NFL teams don’t even have a FB. Dallas hasn’t consistently included one and when they have, it’s been a small part of the offense.
For more than a decade, the NFL leaned toward extended offense. 11 people (sets of 3WR) have ruled and 21 people (2RB) have fallen by the wayside. Teams often prefer to keep an additional TE or an additional WR on the team rather than dedicating a roster spot to a FB.
But times are always changing in the NFL and trends are usually cyclical. Wait long enough and those flared pants at the bottom of the closet will be fresh again. And guess what? Fullbacks could also be great again.
As the NFL returns to a divided safety league where defenses try to do everything they can to stop big downfield passing plays, opportunities open up in the box. As we discussed earlier, the ground game is back in the NFL and it’s because defenses ask for it.
Smart teams like San Francisco recognized this turnaround years ago and have gotten ahead of the curve. The Cowboys may finally be ready to get on board. Provided, of course, that they have a decent fullback.
“There are always cycles,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said in a 2021 interview with SI. “That’s why, for me, there are no absolutes. That’s why I use 21 probably more than anyone else in the NFL; We have a fullback there, not just because that’s our offense, it’s because I think it’s an advantage. People don’t play point guard defense much because most of the league doesn’t have a fullback. And then you have people in the field that they’re not used to practicing with. You know their menu is smaller.
Shanahan’s use of FB Kyle Juszczky is a sight to behold. His FB is not only a leading blocker, but also a man of movement, a running back and a pass catcher. Can the Cowboys get the same from Hunter Luepke?
As his Cowboys Wire profile says, Luepke is a running back who can do it all and can fill many roles in Dallas’ offense. It’s comprehensive enough to replace a TE4 on the roster and given Mike McCarthy’s previous FB usage, he has a good chance of being part of the team, even if he’s a UDFA from the state of North Dakota.
“If you’re playing fullback, playing 21, teams won’t have practiced against him and teams don’t really see him much,” an AFC executive told Albert Brear. “And once you get into the season, it’s hard to practice those things at full speed. You won’t have guys going down the same way… And if you’re playing a gap scheme, teams don’t see much of that either, and it forces you to control gaps and defeat blocks.”
As KD Drummond described earlier in the offseason, OL’s new coach, Mike Solari, brings experience of multiple blocking schemes (though mostly within the zone) so that Dallas’ ground game can be combined in 2023.
With today’s defenses hyper-focused on stopping the pass, it’s a good time for the Cowboys to join the “mismatch bandwagon” and deploy a FB in 2023.
Clearly, Luepke has to prove himself worthy of the job. Coming from the state of North Dakota is a big leap. But if exploration reports can be trusted and live up to expectations, it could signal a slight philosophical shift in Dallas.
McCarthy has stated his desire to have a balanced attack on offense on countless occasions. NFL defenses are practically begging offenses to run on their nickel-heavy personnel. And it turns out the Cowboys have a prospect similar to John Kuhn (McCarthy’s top FB in Green Bay) on their list of training camps.
The stage is set.
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