FB J.C. Copeland Could Be a Game-Changer for the Dallas Cowboys


Sep 21, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers fullback J.C. Copeland (44) against the Auburn Tigers during the first half of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the Bill Parcells Years, the Dallas Cowboys have been infatuated with the two tight-end concept. The 2TE formation, also known as “12” personnel for employing 1 back and two tight ends, continues to be a Dallas Cowboys goal today. But with the notable addition of FB J.C. Copeland, the unconditional “12” love is now wavering…

The Cowboys aren’t ready to admit they need a fullback, but signing undrafted rookie free agent J.C Copeland says otherwise. Copeland was considered a highly coveted undrafted free agent this season. He didn’t sign with the Cowboys because they were his only offer. He chose Dallas because he is convinced he has a shot.

The Dallas Cowboys like carrying extra TEs because of their versatility. A TE can line up anywhere and serve as a blocker or receiver. A FB can also be a blocker or receiver but rarely can be effective split out wide or from blocking on the line. A FB is typically limited to operating out of the backfield. Having a FB in the huddle gives the opposing defense a good indication of the offensive formation, whereas an extra TE keeps them guessing.

With limited roster space available, NFL teams often have to choose between carrying an extra TE or carrying a FB on the roster. As you can imagine, most teams who frequently run a 2TE offense, choose to keep the TE.

The Cowboys have preferred to keep an extra TE with positional versatility that would allow them to use the TE as lead blocker out of the backfield (much like what a FB specializes in). Better known as an H-back in most circles, this TE would often be used in motion, act as a lead-blocker, in-line blocker, or pass catcher. It’s hard not to see the advantages of having such a player on the field. The problem is that finding such a versatile player is extremely challenging.

James Hanna has served as the 3rd TE and H-back at various times with the Cowboys. Hanna is a fast player who is an above-average pass-catcher. He is built more compactly which aids in his ability to play the H-Back and keep pad level low when lead-blocking. Unfortunately Hanna has never had the power or technique to be good in this area.

Such has been the problem with the Cowboys’ other attempts at finding a suitable H-back. They often excel in one aspect but are lacking in others. The FB J.C. Copeland is no different.

Copeland is a traditional FB in every way. He isn’t fast in the open field; he doesn’t run routes or block in-line. With only seven total receptions at LSU, Copeland is clearly not a receiving threat (or even much of an option for that matter).

November 10, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers fullback J.C. Copeland (44) is tackled by Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Christian Holmes (44) during the second half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Mississippi State 37-17. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Standing at 5’11” 271 lbs, Copeland is built to destroy. Known as The Human Bowling Ball and The Human Wrecking Ball, the aptly nicknamed fullback is known for his punishing blows lead blocking between the tackles.

When asked before the draft, Cowboys sources confirmed the Cowboys were only looking to pick TEs or FBs with versatility to play each other’s position. J.C. Copeland does not fit that model, yet he was signed anyway (and quickly at that!).

The Cowboys have long struggled with converting in short yardage situations, preferring to go through the air rather than risk a negative run up the middle. J.C. Copeland can change that.

Good teams can get the tough yards on the ground when it really matters. It matters on the goalline. It matters on 3rd and 1. It matters in the fourth quarter. Copeland will be an asset at all of those critical times. As a feared lead-blocker and potential ball carrier himself, Copeland can improve the Cowboys short yardage efficiency.

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