In his first season, head coach Matt LaFleur was expected to reintroduce the fullback position into the Green Bay Packers offense. He did so marginally with Danny Vitale. However, after just one season in Green Bay, Vitale has moved on to the New England Patriots. Now it may be up to rookie Josiah Deguara or another unproven player to fill in.
When LaFleur was hired he was compared to newly extended San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur worked under Shanahan during their time together in Atlanta until both went their separate ways after 2016.
Not many coaches utilize the fullback position as much as Shanahan and have his success. It obviously helps to have a player as versatile as Kyle Juszczyk, but some of his production can be attributed to the system he plays in.
Last year in 12 games, Juszczyk played a total of 37 percent of the offensive snaps. In 2018 he played in all 16 games and accounted for 63 percent of the offensive snaps. By comparison, Vitale missed only one game in 2019 but only saw 16% percent of the available reps. If LaFleur truly is Shanahan’s heir apparent, expect that number to increase next season.
The reason why the fullback wasn’t relied on in year one could be LaFleur still trying to figure out what he wants from the position or perhaps Vitale just didn’t fit the bill.
With Vitale now out of the picture, the Packers hope Deguara will give them what they need out of a fullback, h-back, tight end hybrid. However, it may be asking a bit much of a rookie to step in and grow accustomed to so many roles.
Tight end Jace Sternberger played some h-back as a rookie and looked comfortable even though those spots were few and far between. Sternberger will probably play sparingly in the backfield next year now that Jimmy Graham is in Chicago. Especially when Sternberger, Marcedes Lewis, and Robert Tonyan are the only tight ends with experience in LaFleur’s system.
Lewis or Tonyan could potentially see time in more of a hybrid role, but most likely it will be up to one of Green Bay’s newcomers. Outside of Deguara, the Packers roster consists of Jordan Jones and Elijah Wellman as the only listed fullbacks.
If no one can be the hybrid LaFleur appears to be searching for, the fullback position could be used stingily once again as he continues to apply his offensive principles in year two.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.