Cowboys Rookie Days Could Be RBBC Final Piece

Even if the Cowboys do establish a lead runner for 2015, there could be a role for rookie Synjyn Days. The former Yellow Jacket brings a unique background to the running back room. Our look, as CHQ takes you inside Valley Ranch for OTAs.

Long live the fullback; at least if you believe in the work of one Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys head coach has made it abundantly clear to all detractors (including yours truly) who’d rather see the 11th guy on the field be a weapon which defenses must account for… he doesn’t care what you think. Garrett has been in charge of the Cowboys offense since 2007 and has employed a true fullback in each of the past eight seasons. Those true fullbacks have never really offered much value except for being a lead blocker. Could that change in 2015?

For the last year and a half, it’s been Tyler Clutts at fullback. Clutts played all 16 games and got one touch in 2014. In 2012, it was Lawrence Vickers getting 16 touches in 16 games. 2011 was Tony Fiametta and Shaun Chapas. 2010 was Chris Gronkowski’s turn (sorry, Romo’s clavicle). Deon Anderson had his go from ’07 through ’09 (with a little Oliver Hoyte in 2007). Here’s a look at the minimal opportunities fullbacks have had over the years under Garrett.

YearPlayerGamesRushesReceptions
2014Tyler Clutts1601
2013Clutts401
2012Vickers16313
2011Fiammetta1343
2011Chapas301
2010Gronkowski1457
2009Anderson1601
2008Anderson1422
2007Anderson806
2007Hoyte1001

In free agency this year, the Cowboys signed two fullbacks to compete for the job, Ray Agnew and Jed Collins. Collins was released last week and Clutts was brought back into the fold to compete for his former job. The Cowboys want a fullback on the roster, period. Point blank.

If history is a guide, the thoughts Dallas plans to save a roster space by utilizing seventh-round TE Geoff Swaim in the fullback role seem misplaced. There is room for a bit of wiggle, however. The magic number of players that are either backs or tight ends seems to be some combination of seven players. Three backs, four ends. Four backs, three ends... either or. Maybe, instead of planning for the latter, or seeing if Dallas could carry Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar, people should be eyeballing a UDFA acquisition instead. Maybe the apple of our eyes should be Georgia Tech’s Synjyn Days.

Back in January at the close of the Cowboys 2014 season, the facts were pretty clear that Dallas wasn’t going to resign DeMarco Murray. There was very little chance the club, well aware of the production decline of backs age 27, combined with his high rate of usage and Murray’s injury history, would be willing to offer a salary commiserate with what Murray would demand on the open market. So in January, CHQ examined the very real possibility of Dallas returning to a running back by committee approach for the 2015 season. At the moment, and we say at the moment because situations change so rapidly, it appears Dallas is signing up for the 2015 RBBC Tour.

Dallas wanted a lead runner; they just preferred him at wholesale prices instead of retail prices (free agency). However, they didn’t want one badly enough to sacrifice adding another potential star pass rusher (Randy Gregory) in the second round. They also didn’t want one badly enough to trade up in the third round to acquire one. Past that point, it was likely whomever they drafted would have been a part of a running back rotation. So they refused to reach for one, stuck to their board and waited until after the draft to add undrafted free agent Days. For what it’s worth, the team has confirmed that they had a draftable grade on Days during the draft process.

What can Days add to a RBBC? A look back into the description (read the entire article here) of the coveted rotation could give a clue.

Leaving open the possibility that FA Darren McFadden could compete for one of the two “all-around” back roles, or more likely compete with Lance Dunbar for the shifty, speed back role, the last of the RBBC slots to fill would be the power back. The term “dirty yards” is often floated around Cowboys twitter and has grown beyond it’s importance. However, Dallas does need someone that can grind it out in short yardage situations. Could there finally be a fullback in the fold who is capable of being more than just a lead blocker?

Days enters the equation standing 6’2” tall and weighing just over 230 pounds. While his position is listed as running back, he is really what is called a “B-Back” in the triple option. The B Back lines up four yards behind the line of scrimmage, similar to where the fullback lines up in a typical formation with 12 or 22 personnel on the field.


Here’s a look at Dallas in 22 personnel.

And here’s a typical Triple Option alignment at Georgia Tech with Days (10) as the B-Back

Your prototypical B-Back is a tailback in a fullback’s body, and Days fits that description to a t. Quick first step, tough as nails, shifty, adept pass catcher and a tackle breaker are paramount to a B-Back’s success. Obviously, the nature of the triple option means that Days has a lot of experience running in a zone-based scheme, which is something the Cowboys employ. Dive plays, inside and outside zone runs, pulling guards and the like are all looks Days is familiar with finding creases in.

Even though the A-backs in the Triple Option flash across the formation many times, Days is primarily used to attacking the line of scrimmage without any sort of lead blocking. This would be paramount for Dallas using him in a similar fashion to Daryl “Moose” Johnston’s role during the championship era of the early ‘90s. Here’s a cut up of Days’ running against North Carolina State.

Days value as a power back for this offense should be readily apparent, if that’s the direction the club wants to go. Whether or not there is a roster spot for him may depend on the part of the fullback equation Garrett values the most, lead blocking and pass protection.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the triple option, Days rarely got the opportunity to lead block. Watching cutups of former Yellow Jacket DeAndre Smelter though, there is evidence of Days’ blocking technique. Almost everything was a cut block; maybe as high as 4 out of every 5 blocks. If Days is going to earn snaps at fullback and truly give the Cowboys five offensive weapons, he will have to show them something in the OTAs and camp they couldn’t see on game film; the ability to square up with an oncoming rusher.

Days’ running ability gives him the opportunity to stick with the club at either position, provided his blocking is up to par. Like we’ve seen with Joseph Randle over the last two years, being unable to block your rookie season doesn’t mean it’s something that can’t be improved. Randle allowed four total quarterback pressures on just 14 pass block attempts as a rookie, but didn’t allow a single pressure in 2014.

Fish has reported that Dallas is looking to have a power back in the rotation; if it turns out that way, Days could face some competition from off the roster. Last week, Dallas brought in four former NFL running backs, including former Texan Ben Tate. Tate has made two stops since, Cleveland and Minnesota, but Houston was the last ZBS stop for Tate and he had success there. Tate is a power back that could fill the role should Dallas look to bring him in as the offseason continues. (An exploration of a trade for Miami's Lamar Miller is also worth another CHQ mention here.)

There could be any number of combinations that gets Dallas to the magic number of seven. Behind Witten, Escobar and Randle, there should be four spots open for Williams, Hanna, Swaim, Ray Hamilton, McFadden, Dunbar, Clutts, Agnew and Days to compete for. Maybe Swaim and Days share fullback duties, while Dunbar or McFadden play the speed back role and Ryan Williams the passing back. There wouldn’t be a single player in that group who would tip off a defense if the play is run or pass, save for Dunbar.

This is just one of several intriguing storylines that will start to flesh itself out over the next two months. ... and that continue to reveal themselves today. CowboysHQ.com will be inside Valley Ranch for today's OTAs, with Fish filing a live report from the sideline at 11:30 on 105.3 The Fan.



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YearPlayerGamesRushesReceptions
2014Tyler Clutts1601
2013Clutts401
2012Vickers16313
2011Fiammetta1343
2011Chapas301
2010Gronkowski1457
2009Anderson1601
2008Anderson1422
2007Anderson806
2007Hoyte1001

\r\n\r\n\r\nIn free agency this year, the Cowboys signed two fullbacks to compete for the job, Ray Agnew and Jed Collins. Collins was released last week and Clutts was brought back into the fold to compete for his former job. The Cowboys want a fullback on the roster, period. Point blank.

\r\n\r\nIf history is a guide, the thoughts Dallas plans to save a roster space by utilizing seventh-round TE Geoff Swaim in the fullback role seem misplaced. There is room for a bit of wiggle, however. The magic number of players that are either backs or tight ends seems to be some combination of seven players. Three backs, four ends. Four backs, three ends... either or. Maybe, instead of planning for the latter, or seeing if Dallas could carry Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar, people should be eyeballing a UDFA acquisition instead. Maybe the apple of our eyes should be Georgia Tech’s Synjyn Days.

\r\n\r\nBack in January at the close of the Cowboys 2014 season, the facts were pretty clear that Dallas wasn’t going to resign DeMarco Murray. There was very little chance the club, well aware of the production decline of backs age 27, combined with his high rate of usage and Murray’s injury history, would be willing to offer a salary commiserate with what Murray would demand on the open market. So in January, CHQ examined the very real possibility of Dallas returning to a running back by committee approach for the 2015 season. At the moment, and we say at the moment because situations change so rapidly, it appears Dallas is signing up for the 2015 RBBC Tour.

\r\n\r\nDallas wanted a lead runner; they just preferred him at wholesale prices instead of retail prices (free agency). However, they didn’t want one badly enough to sacrifice adding another potential star pass rusher (Randy Gregory) in the second round. They also didn’t want one badly enough to trade up in the third round to acquire one. Past that point, it was likely whomever they drafted would have been a part of a running back rotation. So they refused to reach for one, stuck to their board and waited until after the draft to add undrafted free agent Days. For what it’s worth, the team has confirmed that they had a draftable grade on Days during the draft process.

\r\n\r\nWhat can Days add to a RBBC? A look back into the description (read the entire article here) of the coveted rotation could give a clue.

\r\n\r\n

[MEDIA:1534432]

\r\n\r\nLeaving open the possibility that FA Darren McFadden could compete for one of the two “all-around” back roles, or more likely compete with Lance Dunbar for the shifty, speed back role, the last of the RBBC slots to fill would be the power back. The term “dirty yards” is often floated around Cowboys twitter and has grown beyond it’s importance. However, Dallas does need someone that can grind it out in short yardage situations. Could there finally be a fullback in the fold who is capable of being more than just a lead blocker?

\r\n\r\nDays enters the equation standing 6’2” tall and weighing just over 230 pounds. While his position is listed as running back, he is really what is called a “B-Back” in the triple option. The B Back lines up four yards behind the line of scrimmage, similar to where the fullback lines up in a typical formation with 12 or 22 personnel on the field.

\r\n\r\n

[MEDIA:1534475]
Here’s a look at Dallas in 22 personnel.
[MEDIA:1534477]
And here’s a typical Triple Option alignment at Georgia Tech with Days (10) as the B-Back

\r\n\r\nYour prototypical B-Back is a tailback in a fullback’s body, and Days fits that description to a t. Quick first step, tough as nails, shifty, adept pass catcher and a tackle breaker are paramount to a B-Back’s success. Obviously, the nature of the triple option means that Days has a lot of experience running in a zone-based scheme, which is something the Cowboys employ. Dive plays, inside and outside zone runs, pulling guards and the like are all looks Days is familiar with finding creases in.

\r\n\r\nEven though the A-backs in the Triple Option flash across the formation many times, Days is primarily used to attacking the line of scrimmage without any sort of lead blocking. This would be paramount for Dallas using him in a similar fashion to Daryl “Moose” Johnston’s role during the championship era of the early ‘90s. Here’s a cut up of Days’ running against North Carolina State.

\r\n\r\n\r\n

\r\nDays value as a power back for this offense should be readily apparent, if that’s the direction the club wants to go. Whether or not there is a roster spot for him may depend on the part of the fullback equation Garrett values the most, lead blocking and pass protection.

\r\n\r\nUnfortunately, due to the nature of the triple option, Days rarely got the opportunity to lead block. Watching cutups of former Yellow Jacket DeAndre Smelter though, there is evidence of Days’ blocking technique. Almost everything was a cut block; maybe as high as 4 out of every 5 blocks. If Days is going to earn snaps at fullback and truly give the Cowboys five offensive weapons, he will have to show them something in the OTAs and camp they couldn’t see on game film; the ability to square up with an oncoming rusher.

\r\n\r\nDays’ running ability gives him the opportunity to stick with the club at either position, provided his blocking is up to par. Like we’ve seen with Joseph Randle over the last two years, being unable to block your rookie season doesn’t mean it’s something that can’t be improved. Randle allowed four total quarterback pressures on just 14 pass block attempts as a rookie, but didn’t allow a single pressure in 2014.

\r\n\r\nFish has reported that Dallas is looking to have a power back in the rotation; if it turns out that way, Days could face some competition from off the roster. Last week, Dallas brought in four former NFL running backs, including former Texan Ben Tate. Tate has made two stops since, Cleveland and Minnesota, but Houston was the last ZBS stop for Tate and he had success there. Tate is a power back that could fill the role should Dallas look to bring him in as the offseason continues. (An exploration of a trade for Miami's Lamar Miller is also worth another CHQ mention here.)

\r\n\r\nThere could be any number of combinations that gets Dallas to the magic number of seven. Behind Witten, Escobar and Randle, there should be four spots open for Williams, Hanna, Swaim, Ray Hamilton, McFadden, Dunbar, Clutts, Agnew and Days to compete for. Maybe Swaim and Days share fullback duties, while Dunbar or McFadden play the speed back role and Ryan Williams the passing back. There wouldn’t be a single player in that group who would tip off a defense if the play is run or pass, save for Dunbar.

\r\n\r\nThis is just one of several intriguing storylines that will start to flesh itself out over the next two months. ... and that continue to reveal themselves today. CowboysHQ.com will be inside Valley Ranch for today's OTAs, with Fish filing a live report from the sideline at 11:30 on 105.3 The Fan.

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