Read this brief update from profootball weekly:
The Cowboys are playing around with using Marion Barber and Felix Jones — something it did sparingly last season when the two were healthy — on the field at the same time. It doesn’t have to be in traditional, two-back sets, either; Jones has the flexibility to split out and motion into or out of the backfield.
Normally such an insignificant off-season bit piece, especially about the Cowboys, wouldn’t register on my NFL radar. But this just makes sense to me and I wonder why more teams don’t do it. It seems that in the last 15-20 years at least, teams have quietly obeyed some unwritten rule that they should NOT play 2 RBs at the same time. Now, I’m not including FBs here, just RBs – and I’m not referring to the now popular sharing of the running load by 2 RBs (Chris Johnson, Lendale White, etc). My question is: why don’t more NFL and even college teams consider putting 2 talented backs on the field at the same time? Just think of the match-up issues it could cause for the defense? Imagine for a moment…when the QB drops back and 2 talented RBs are lined up in the I formation behind him – a defense would immediately have to account for a variety of play possibilities for just the 2 RBs – not to mention any talented WRs or TEs or even a sneak or roll-out by the QB. With the traditional FB and RB backfield, defenses can almost count out the possibility of a FB getting a hand-off or pass and even if they do, FBs are usually too slow to do much damage. But having to account for 2 play-making RBs would be a very different story.
It got me thinking of the trouble a defense would have accounting for Jason Witten, Roy Williams, Barber and Jones on the same play; or, Jerious Norwood, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White on one play; or Darren Sproles, LT, Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson on one play. This idea isn’t necessarily new – we’ve already seen this 2RB game plan have some success with Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and the Saints and even Darren McFadden and Felix Jones when at Arkansas – it’s just not used as much as it should be.
I am a big proponent of any offensive philosophy that focuses on creating mismatches and being unpredictable. That may be an obvious offensive focus, but few offenses are able to consistently create mismatches and be unpredictable over time. I’m a bit surprised Mike McCarthy hasn’t experimented with something like this 2 RB set. Perhaps putting Grant and Wynn or Wynn and Jackson out there for the same play would cause coverage issues for defenses. (Or Lumpkin and Tyrell Sutton – who knows). Granted, a present Packer 2 RB set wouldn’t be the nightmare that defending Barber and Jones simultaneously would be, but it could be a needed creative boost that at least makes other teams have to account for more play options. McCarthy already has introduced (or perhaps re-introduced) the novel idea of using 5 WRs at the same time – so I could see him warming to an idea like this.