Is The Fullback Position Being Phased Out?BREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Thursday, June 28th, 2012
As training camp approaches, one of the things to talk about is roster battles, as there will be many of those going on up at Lehigh. Those battles, and the performances of the players in them, may also impact how Andy Reid decides to shape the roster.
How many players they keep at specific positions can always vary a little bit here and there. Do they keep five or six wide receivers? Six or seven linebackers? Five or six cornerbacks?
These are the questions that get answered after seeing how players perform. However, one decision may not have anything to do with how a particular player performs: Fullback.
Fullbacks who play for the Philadelphia Eagles seem to be on the verge of an extinction level event.
Long gone are the days of Kevin Turner and Jon Ritchie. The last dynamic player the Eagles had at fullback was Leonard Weaver, whose career unfortunately ended far too early in September of 2010.
However, Weaver was viewed more like a fullback/running back, and not as a true lead blocker that has always defined the position.
When Weaver went down, the Eagles brought in Owen Schmitt to replace him, and the former Seahawk started most of 2010 and all of 2011. Schmitt was more of a true fullback in the sense that he was not a gifted athlete and was supposed to play the role of lead blocker.
This offseason, Schmitt was not re-signed and he has since joined the Oakland Raiders. That leaves 2011 seventh-round pick Stanley Havili and 2012 UDFA rookies Emil Igwenagu and Jeremy Stewart as the only fullbacks on the roster.
Obviously, this makes Havili the front-runner for the position.
However, the main question I have is whether or not the Eagles will even keep a fullback on the roster this season. The reason being, is that they seem to have been phasing out the position over the past two seasons.
Consider this (per Pro Football Focus): In 2010, Owen Schmitt played in 33% of the team’s offensive snaps. In 2011, that number dwindled down to just 16%. Not coincidentally, 2011 was the first year of implementing the offensive line scheme of Howard Mudd.
During most of Mudd’s time in Indianapolis, the Colts did not utilize a fullback and therefore didn’t keep one on their roster. It’s just a guess here on my part, but I’d imagine the reason would be due to the way he runs the ball.
The Eagles started using Mudd’s slant running or “stretch” scheme, just the way they did it in Indy when he was there. That puts more emphasis on the zone blocking by the offensive line and the vision of the running back to find the right lane rather than rely on lead blocking by a fullback.
If an already seldom-used position took a 50% reduction in the amount of snaps from 2010 to 2011, and the fact we use a scheme that appears to not historically utilize a fullback, I have to wonder if the Eagles will designate a roster spot for this position in 2012.
In fact, if they decide not to, it will give them an extra roster spot that they could use somewhere else.
Historically, the Eagles usually keep three running backs and one fullback on the 53-man roster. Right now, they have LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk as well as the aforementioned three fullbacks.
If we keep a fullback, that means that one out of Lewis, Brown, and Polk will not make the team. Brown and Polk have yet to prove themselves, but Havili hasn’t proven himself either.
Is keeping a fullback such as Havili, at the expense of a promising runner like Brown or Polk, worth it?
Even though logic would tell me that, if they decided not to keep a fullback, they would most likely keep four running backs. However, they could still keep only three and use that extra roster spot at another position.
In other words, it would give them some flexibility as it pertains to roster juggling.
This will be an interesting situation to watch. Do they keep a fullback, whose only value *might* be in goal line and short yardage situations?
Or do they sacrifice that roster spot for a more promising player at another position or for a position where more depth is needed?
This will be one of many decisions Andy Reid and Co. have to make when playing the roster game.
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