The Dallas Cowboys have had an off-and-on type of relationship with the fullback position in recent years. Oftentimes the Cowboys have decided to forgo having a fullback on the roster. Undrafted rookie free agent J.C. Copeland could bring stability to a very unstable position on the Cowboys.
Going into the regular season, the Cowboys did not have a fullback on the roster, instead opting to go with five tight ends. This changed quickly, however, when the Cowboys traded Dante Rosario to the Chicago Bears shortly after final cuts.
Then in November, the Cowboys released their No. 4 tight end Andre Smith, leaving them with three tight ends and devoid of a player who could block out of the backfield.
Because of this the Cowboys signed fullback Tyler Clutts, which gave them a true fullback for the first time that year. Clutts played well in his short time with the Cowboys; Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a grade of plus-2.5, which is decent.
Garrett has said that he would like to have a fullback on the roster, and that will most likely come down to a training-camp battle between Clutts and Copeland.
|J.C. Copeland's College Statistics|
|Year||Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards||Rushing Yards Per Attempt||Touchdowns|
As is the case with defensive tackles and offensive linemen, it is hard to judge how good a fullback is based on statistics. There are no successful- or failed-blocks statistics. Oftentimes fullbacks don't get enough carries and receptions to show their true impact on the game.
To understand an accurate representation of how Copeland played, you have to closely watch him on film.
One interesting tidbit from his stats is that it looks like LSU trusted him with a good portion of goal-line carries. Seven touchdowns in his last two years is excellent for a fullback.
|J.C. Copeland's Measurements|
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||Hand Size|
Copeland resembles a bowling ball. He is short and stocky, which should help him with some of his blocks. He is a little heavy right now, and as Jason Garrett said, it would be nice if he lost around 15 pounds. This would allow Copeland to be quicker and more agile, which should help him on any zone or trap runs.
|J.C. Copeland's NFL Combine Results|
|40-Yard Dash||Bench Press||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3-Cone Drill||20-Yard Shuttle|
|4.95 seconds||23 reps||28.5 inches||9.25 feet||7.68 seconds||4.58 seconds|
Copeland proved during the combine that he is not a very athletic or agile player. He could have probably put up better numbers if he was in better shape and had dropped some weight, but that wouldn't hide the fact that Copeland is not a real receiving or running threat.
Bill Walsh said, as long as a fullback runs under a five-second 40-yard dash, he would be fine. Copeland barely hits that mark.
Copeland was tied for fourth among running backs for the bench press, which points to the fact that he is a powerful player instead of a quick or agile one.
Based upon his measurements and combine results, Copeland should be a powerful blocker who can drive defenders out of the hole or on their backs. He should be great at inside rushes but struggle a little on any runs outside the tackles.
However, for a clear understanding of Copeland, again, we turn to his game film.
When watching Copeland, you see a lot to love but also a lot to hate.
When Copeland is disciplined and technically sound, he makes a lot of impact blocks that jump off the screen. He often drives the defender back multiple yards or simply pancakes them.
Copeland utilizes great strength, balance and leverage to open gaping holes for his running backs. He has enough quickness to get to the hole and plenty of strength to get the defender out of it.
Copeland is at his best when he is able to go straight downhill into a gap and blow up the assigned defender. He struggles at times when asked to do any type of zone run that requires him to make any lateral movement.
One indication of this is that Copeland only played when LSU was in the offset or normal I-formation. This allowed Copeland to get downhill on a large portion of run plays as quick as possible.
When Copeland remains square, he makes the sound block. However, he has the bad habit of dipping his shoulder when he is trying to make a big block. This leads to him sometimes bouncing off of defenders and even whiffing on others.
Copeland also has the tendency to drop his head when engaging a defender. This is bad because it doesn't allow Copeland to see the defender when he engages. If a defender makes any last-second move, Copeland would not be able to react because his eyes were not in the right place.
Another troubling tendency is that Copeland looks either tired or disinterested at times. On these occasions, Copeland tends to make terrible plays.
On this play, Copeland makes a terrible attempt at a cut block, and his defender easily stuffs it and makes the tackle on the ball-carrier. Plays like these are not acceptable at the next level and should give pause to anyone hoping he could be the full-time starter.
One area Copeland was surprisingly adept in was pass protection. On one occasion, Copeland comes forward on the play-action pass. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a blitzing defensive back. He comes all the way from the interior of the line to the outside to make the block, giving his quarterback time to throw.
Despite some of his faults, Copeland has all the tools to be a truly great fullback. When he stays square, keeps his head up and gets downhill, he makes picture-perfect blocks. However, sometimes he has a lapse in technique that causes him to mess up on some rudimentary plays.
If Copeland gets in better shape and is more consistent with his technique, he will do a lot of great things for the Cowboys.
Fit on Cowboys Offense
Copeland will be battling Clutts for the only fullback spot on the roster. This decision will likely come down to what type of fullback the Cowboys want.
Do they want a fullback who is better with lateral movement and more technically sound? Clutts will likely be their choice then.
Do they want a downhill fullback who can wear down the opposition and deliver the knockout blow? Copeland is the man for the job.
One thing that may sway the Cowboys in favor of Copeland is that he has much more potential than Clutts does. Copeland has a ton that he can improve on while already being a adequate fullback.
If Copeland cleans up his technique and gets in shape, then he could be one of the best in the league.
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