"The fullback is a dying position".
Not in Baltimore.
The phrase above seems to be uttered a lot amongst fans, as no one seems to be appreciate the value that a fullback can bring to the game. The position used to be a glamorous one, back in the days of smashmouth football, when players like Marion Motley, Jim Brown, and Steve Van Buren all played the position. With the dawn of the 'passing league' in the modern NFL, many teams have done away with the fullback entirely. Thankfully, there are still a few franchises that treasure the versatility fullbacks add to the game. Baltimore is one of those teams.
The Ravens have always been fond of their fullbacks. Remember when Le'Ron McClain led the team in rushing yards for the 2008 season? The team also shelled out $11 million to bring 3-time All Pro fullback Vonta Leach to Baltimore, that contract made him the highest paid at the position in the league. Then the Ravens drafted one of only three fullbacks selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, Kyle Juszczyk, out of Harvard.
Kyle had to wait a year before seeing the field, but he had a great 'rookie' season in 2014. Kyle paved the way for Justin Forsett's spectacular season as his lead blocker, and also halued in 19 receptions (2nd most for FBs) for 182 yards and a TD. All while being named the top Pro Bowl alternate for the position.
He also did this.
and mocked LeBron James too.
All in all, I'd call it an impressive campaign for Kyle, and he looks to improve on it next year in a new offense.
Both Kyle and Justin know that Trestman's offense have been very fair towards getting the ball to the backs. With Kyle's great hands, freakish speed, and size, anything is possible. He's like a running back on steroids.
"There’s time now where a short flat route to a back can be Joe’s first read, where last year maybe it wasn’t," Juszczyk said. "And there have been times where Joe has just gotten it out quick this year. I do kind of get the sense that there could be more of that." The Ravens already give Kyle the ball a lot, as evidenced by this statistic.
Kyle has also said that he plans to "refine his craft" by working on his blocks, and also wants to average two or more catches a game, for a total of 32.
The only downfall to his game is ball security, two fumbles in the regular season, and one that went out of bounds in the playoffs. These fumbles seemed to occur when he was just 'trying to do too much' and make something special of the play. Hopefully Kyle has recognized these issues and fixed them, it's most likely a lapse of concentration or a rookie mistake.
Kyle has all the tools to succeed as a fullback in today's NFL. He's gritty, hard-nosed, and excels at blocking, running, and receiving. For fullbacks to stay relevant, they must posess all of these traits. The guys that play the position are a little crazy, as they're paid less than only punters and long snappers but do much more physical work. They have to be versatile and proficient at all of the key skills. And finally, they receive no fanfare, and no love for what they do.
I'm certainly glad the position is flourishing in Baltimore, perhaps we can revive an old trend with 'Juice-Check'.