When the news broke that Jamize Olawale was opting out of the 2020 season, I’m sure everyone’s first thought was the same; great now the Cowboys can’t run the Annexation of Puerto Rico.
While Kellen Moore will have to leave that one on the cutting room floor this season, not having a full back on the roster is not a problem; it could be a huge benefit.
In his two years on the Cowboys, Olawale’s usage is almost exactly the same in each season. He played 10.6 and 10.5 percent of the offensive snaps in 2018 and 2019 respectively. He also did not record a single rushing yard in either season. Olawale was only targeting six times over those two seasons bringing in two of them for 13 yards in 2018 and none in 2019. His most memorable play in a Cowboys uniform is probably when he dropped a wide-open pass in the endzone in the Colts in 2018. With so little usage and production coming from the position the Cowboys could turn to undrafted free agent Sewo Olonilua, who did play running back at TCU, but at 6’3” 240lbs has more of the body of a fullback. I won’t be surprised if turning to him is exactly what the Cowboys do, but there are other options on the roster to fill the full back position on a play by play basis and not have to use a roster spot on a player who only sees the field on a little more than 10 percent of the snaps.
Option 1- Blake Jarwin
Since he was signed from the practice squad, we have seen flashes of what Jarwin can do at TE and with future hall of famer Jason Witten now on the Raiders (that is a weird phrase to write), he is in line for more targets. When Jarwin was in college at Oklahoma State they did not have a full back on the roster, so when a lead blocker was needed for the rare power run up the middle, it was typically Jarwin filling those duties. He is in the back field blocking in a couple of the plays in the video below, but the clearest shot of him lead blocking starts at 35 seconds.
While his lead blocking skills aren’t going to set the world on fire, it is such a small part of the Cowboys’ offense, putting him back there could be serviceable. Yes Blake Bell (getting to him in a minute) is the better blocker of the two, but Jarwin is the better receiver and more explosive after the catch. Going back to his college days again, while none of these highlights show him coming out of the back field to make the catch, sliding down the line after play action and making someone miss the exactly what you would want a full back to do on a play action pass with him moving in to the flat.
Option 2-Blake Bell
Olawale has 0 rushing yards since joining the Cowboys, so clearly pounding the ball with a full back is not important to Kellen Moore, however if you are handing off to the Belldozer who can do things like this
It might happen once or twice per game.
Bell has become a very solid blocking tight end in the NFL and while he was in college, he has some experience blocking out of the back field as well.
Like Jarwin, his blocking in the backfield isn’t great, but he does get in the way of the defender and takes them out of the play.
Using both of the Blakes at different times at the fullback position would keep from tipping the defense to what type of play is coming. They can’t just run behind Bell and use Jarwin in play action, they would need to do some of both with both guys to keep the defense honest.
(If you had told me in 2014 while watching Bedlam that not only would the Cowboys top two tight ends be a walk on from Oklahoma State and the guy who was OU’s back QB, but that I would be excited about that prospect and want to give them more responsibility, there is no way I would have believed it.)
Option 3- Ezekiel Elliot
While the Annexation of Puerto Rico is out the question, this is the way Moore can get back to those Boise State roots and bring in some trickery. I am not suggesting that Zeke should lead block for Tony Pollard at all. This is more of a unique way to get both backs on the field at the same time, giving the opposing defenses looks they haven’t seen before. Zeke has become more of a power back recently than he was when he entered the league, so handing it to him in short yardage as the up back is not out of the question. Fakes to Zeke and pitches to Pollard would collapse the defense and her Pollard out in space. Play action out of that formation with one or both backs going out into the flat could create all kinds of mismatches. And the Cowboys could even run a little triple option with those two and Dak.
With the addition of Ceedee Lamb this offseason, the Cowboys should stay mostly in 11 personnel anyway, but if they want someone in that fullback position on the field these are ways to get that player without using a roster spot on someone who plays 10 percent of snaps. Saving the one million or so in cap space isn’t meaningless with a possibly salary cap crunch next season either but allowing yourself an extra defensive back or defensive lineman could be huge when there are so many question marks at both of those positions this season anyway. So, if the Cowboys are intent on having possessions where they use a fullback, unleash The Blakes.