Vickers’ Availability Raises Questions about the Fullback Position
Sep 5, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Lawrence Vickers (47) prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
The Dallas Cowboys have waived fullback Lawrence Vickers as of Friday afternoon. The move was made to save money as well as the fact the Cowboys are planning to run predominately out of a double tight end set as their base package, which made Vickers far more expendable. The Browns have at least a question mark at fullback if not an outright need and Vickers could be worth a look both as he fits what the Browns want to do offensively. The other part of this that makes it at least worth mentioning is the fact that Vickers was drafted in 2006, so he was here the last time Rod Chudzinski was here and blocked for Jamal Lewis, who had a great season running behind him. Chudzinski knows him, knows exactly what to expect from him and what he would bring to the locker room, so he might be inclined to take a look at him.
Vickers was drafted as a sixth round pick out of Colorado to be a receiving fullback option and a west coast fit but he ended up being a limited receiver for the Browns. Instead, he became a bulldozing type force out of the backfield in his time with the Browns and that could work nicely with Chudzinski’s more power based offensive scheme to block for Trent Richardson. The Browns might like to have Vonta Leach come to town and play fullback, but Leach may be more inclined to play for a contender, which would make Vickers the next best option if they do not think the answer is on the roster.
The fullback situation is in flux since Owen Marecic has been nothing short of a disaster who looks more likely to go back to Stanford Medical School to be a doctor than he is a contributor on this team. He has had terrible luck with concussions but has also struggled as a player since being selected as a fourth round pick. The new regime has no connection to him whatsoever so unless he gets a lot better in a hurry, they will probably let him go. He was drafted to be a fullback who could catch the ball out of the backfield as well as a special teams ace, but if it is going to happen and happen in Cleveland, it has to happen now.
Brad Smelley was drafted in the seventh round last year as Richardson’s backfield mate at Alabama and he spent most of the year on the practice squad, presumably to add bulk. Smelley came into the league at about 235lbs which is not a great build for a fullback, even if they are supposed to be able to contribute as an H-Back as well. It would be a surprise if he did not enter training camp much bigger than he came in last year and looking to show he can be a good blocking back.
The wild card might be Chris Ogbannaya as there has been some speculation that he could get a look as a fullback. He is an interesting option because he can pass protect and catch passes out of the backfield. Whether or not he can take on the boss block in the hole is a question that remains to be answered. If the Browns want more of a receiving threat out of the backfield, he could be intriguing but when it comes to 3rd-and-short or punching the ball in down by the goal line, he might not be the right guy. It would make him an interesting utility player that could line up as a fullback or halfback depending on the situation if there is truth here.
Vickers is a fullback who just looks to knock someone out in the hole, which could be a great fit in Cleveland in front of Richardson. He was able to catch a few more passes in the state of Texas since leaving Cleveland, spending a year with Houston and then Dallas but he is a hammer. That is exactly what he would be coming in to do and what they would ask him to do. He was here when Chudzinski was here and part of that 2007 offense that put up a bunch of points, so this organization knows Vickers and knows what he would bring to the table. The one concern with Vickers is that he had back surgery in April, which is never a good situation, so he would have to prove he is healthy.
Vonta Leach would be the best situation because he is one of the best in the business, but it seems unlikely that he will want to come to Cleveland. If the Browns can get him, they should, but failing that, unless they are confident in what they currently have, they should at least take a look at Vickers. It would not be a heartbreaking deal if they do not reach out, but he could be a helpful player. Vickers is also someone who liked playing in Cleveland and was hoping to stay in Cleveland, which should not be a reason to sign him if he is not good enough, but if he is, it makes him more enthusiastic about coming back. With the precarious situation at tight end, there might be more reason to have a fullback at least this year. If they bolster the stable for next year, Vickers and the fullback position as a whole could be far more expandable in Cleveland, but it could be a nice pickup for this year. Vickers is not going to make the Browns a playoff team by virtue of his presence, but he might be beneficial to the offense and the locker room, so they should kick the tires on him and see if he cannot improve the position.