It’s been a long time since John Kuhn wore the Green and Gold as a player of the Green Bay Packers. While fullbacks don’t receive much in the way of fanfare, Kuhn was a beloved and vital hero of the Packers. It’s been years since cries of “Kuuuuuhn” have been heard in a live game. However, Matt LaFleur’s offense is ideal for a protean fullback. Like Aragorn’s journey from an unassuming ranger to his return as the rightful King of Gondor, could the Packers have their own hero ready to take up the crown?
In the Green Bay Packers’ new offense, Danny Vitale is positioned for the return of the fullback in a major way.
Like Aragorn, Vitale enters this season as a handsome unknown, but has the potential to dominate his chosen field. Vitale was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns before joining the Packers’ practice squad in October, 2018 and then the active roster in December. Despite a successful college career, Vitale had yet to flash offensively in the NFL.
Yet Vitale, who OC Nathaniel Hackett referred to as “The Muscle Man” on Monday, showed up this offseason as a prime physical specimen and hungry to make a name for himself in the Packers’ new offense.
Matt LaFleur learned his craft from the Shanahan’s and developed the same philosophies on the run game. He wants the offense to run off of play-action, using the run game to launch the passing game, and he wants to trick defenses using versatile plays and players. A do-it-all fullback, like Vitale, can play a major role.
“Looking at those teams, it’s a fullback’s dream,” Vitale said of the Shanahan system. “It opens up so many opportunities instead of just being a smashing fullback. You can bump out and run routes out of the backfield, anything really. The sky’s the limit in this offense for a fullback.”
To see this philosophy in action, look no further than Kyle Juszczyk’s play in Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers. Juszczyk made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and finished the season with 324 receiving yards, 30 rushing yards, and a touchdown. He played 62.72% of offensive snaps and 15.55% on special teams. For a position normally forgotten by NFL community, this is incredible.
Vitale hasn’t shown Juszczyk’s level of skill yet, but the potential is apparent. Vitale had 1,424 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns at Northwestern, showing he can do more than block and run. That versatility is crucial for what LaFleur wants to do. Vitale can be welcome support in a backfield with Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Dexter Williams.
Vitale also has familiarity with new special teams coordinator, Shawn Mennenga, from his time in Cleveland.
Reports from training camp tell of Vitale often running with the 1s and used as the lone back in one back personnel. Writers further reported his receiving ability flashing, and his rapport with Aaron Rodgers is growing. While caution must be taken on any July hype, the idea of Vitale as an important part of this offense should have Packers’ fans excited.
Sometimes a new opportunity is all one needs to succeed. Matt LaFleur’s new offense is the perfect place for Danny Vitale to showcase his skills and make a name for himself. Like Kuhn, Vitale has the potential to be a hero in Green Bay.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.