…trying to imagine the New York Giants power running game sans the presence of a fullback… OK, I can’t see it. But apparently the “Zero fullback” approach to building the roster is a very real consideration.
The Star-Ledger has reported that, according to internal anonymous sources with knowledge of the situation, the Giants have notified their five-pack of tight ends that backfield blocking duties could soon belong to them.
First off, let’s analyze this from the perspective of Ben McAdoo calling the plays. He comes from a system in Green Bay that utilized hybrid-FB John Kuhn all over the place — 163 carries and 71 receptions since 2007 — and often at critical points of games. The difference here is that Kuhn was an athlete and trusted receiving option, while Henry Hynoski and John Conner are more rigid in their blocking skill sets. With either player lined up as a lead blocker, the element of surprise essentially goes out the window.
“We mix,” McAdoo said last month just before the break. “We’re in and out of personnel groups and those types of things at this point. You like to use the fullback. The way I was raised, a fullback’s a big part of the things you do. Henry and John have both done a nice job so far.”
Issue number two: can any tight ends on the roster handle mobile blocking assignments? Daniel Fells has experience filling a similar role with New England in 2012, a season he finished with a 10.8 Pro Football Focus run block rating. Standing at 6’3 252, Fells is on the small side for a TE, which allows him to maintain low center of gravity at the point of attack.
“It’s definitely different,” Fells said. “If you’ve never done it before, it’s kind of a little bit of an uncomfortable position. You’re coming from the backfield and you’re used to being in-line or flexed out. So just coming from a different angle and coming downhill, now you’re going against a linebacker that is 5 or 6 yards away from you.
Kellen Davis, on the other hand, is a mountain of a man. At 6’7 262, Davis also has some familiarity with fullback complexities, firing out of the backfield to lead block for Marshawn Lynch in 2013. Well perhaps “firing out” is a tad strong. He posted a -2.9 PFF run block rating and committed four penalties on 119 run block snaps (172 total snaps). It sure feels like Davis is a longshot to make this team.
For the youngin’s like Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell… we’re talking a whole different set of encyclopedias to know inside and out. And let’s be honest, the tight end position learning curve was steep enough to begin with.
When push comes to shove, will head coach Tom Coughlin be open to abandoning traditional I-formation, smashmouth football? It’s exceedingly difficult to envision, but given their personnel, the Giants might not have a choice. For now, Coughlin is allowing the situation to play out organically on the practice field. In six days, the game lights will come on and the weeding out process will launch in full force.
“We don’t have to rush into anything,” Coughlin said this week. “With five preseason games and then hopefully throughout the course of the five preseason games we will have all the information we need.”