OXNARD, Calif. – It's hard not to notice this one interesting wrinkle when the Cowboys break the huddle at practice.
This is a star-studded offense, and those big numbers tend to stand out. Whether it's No. 4 under center, No. 19 and No. 18 out wide or the massive numbers on the offensive line, there are some heavy hitters sharing the huddle.
It's not meant as a slight toward Jamize Olawale, but his distinctive No. 49 isn't exactly on that level. And yet, at this early stage in the game, the veteran fullback has been on the field more and more often.
"We've been one of the few teams in the NFL to have a fullback, really, for a number of years," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "We value that position for a lot of different reasons."
That's all well and good. Garrett is correct that the Cowboys have always employed a fullback in the past, whether it was Tyler Clutts, Keith Smith or now Olawale. But a quick look through the stats says Olawale played a mere 114 offensive snaps last season, an average of just seven per game.
Based on what's happened so far, that number might be going up – and it could be a byproduct of Kellen Moore's promotion to offensive coordinator.
"He's putting in some plays for me, and he told me before I signed how they wanted to use me," Olawale said. "That's something I've been excited about, enjoying my role in this offense."
It is interesting to note that Olawale was one of the Cowboys' first signings of the offseason. Back in March, he signed a three-year, $5.4 million contract to remain in Dallas. Olawale said that a larger role was one of the Cowboys' selling points, among other things.
"Just that, and wanting some continuity from last year," he said. "I really love what we're building here in Dallas, and that's really what motivated me to come back."
To this point in the offseason, the Cowboys have shown a preference for 21 personnel – that is, two backs and one tight end. It's allowed Olawale plenty of opportunity to show his stuff, whether that's leading for the ball carrier or breaking out into a varied route tree.
"He's very smart, and he can handle the traditional fullback duties from the backfield, but also you can put him in different spots in the formation and he can handle both his protection responsibilities and his route responsibilities," Garrett said.
His history bears that out. Olawale caught 39 career passes in Oakland, including a 75-yard touchdown in 2016 that caught everyone's attention when he was traded to Dallas last year. He also has 55 career carries, although none of those have come for the Cowboys.
With Moore calling things in 2019, maybe that's about to change. For his part, Olawale said it's nice to feel valued, although he has bigger goals in mind.
"I'm not even concerned about that, but whatever my role is, we're trying to put together a championship team. That's my main concern," he said.