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Point of Veau: Packers May Go Away From Fullbacks In Favor of H-Backs

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Point of Veau: Packers May Go Away From Fullbacks In Favor of H-Backs

With two fullbacks currently free agents and the addition of two more "tight ends" in the draft, the Packers may be going the route of "H-Backs" as opposed to fullbacks this upcoming season.

I had brought up that exact possibility in the aftermath of the draft on Twitter but wanted to examine it a little more in depth here.

The fullback had been going the way of the dinosaur everywhere else in the NFL except Green Bay where they've kept three on their roster in each of the past two seasons.

With both John Kuhn and Korey Hall currently free agents (whether they're restricted or unrestricted will be determined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement), this appears to be an opportunity for the Packers to head in a new direction. Fellow fullback Quinn Johnson is currently under contract, although he doesn't seem to be a lock for a roster spot in 2011 either.

In a recent conversation I had with former Packers fullback and running backs coach Harry Sydney, he had reservations about both Hall and Johnson being back with the team next season.

"Korey Hall, I’d be surprised if he’s back, because of the fact what he’s done on special teams and that he’s got a Super Bowl ring now, they’ve won a Super Bowl," said Sydney. "He might be in demand, because he’s a helluva special teams player. I think he’s going to be a guy they’re going to miss on special teams.

"Quinn Johnson, I’m still waiting for him to explode and be a big physical blocker. He’s a decent blocker, he’s a big guy, but he doesn’t really run anybody out. A lot of it may be the scheme, the zone blocking scheme where he’s running more to the A-hole than really facing head up on a guy. That’s what his role needs to be."

Kuhn looks to be back next season because of his versatility. In addition to fullback, he's a goal-line and short-yardage ball carrier, an emergency halfback, very good in pass protection and has reliable hands.

So instead of a three-headed monster at fullback, the Packers may decide to utilize H-Backs instead.

As opposed to the traditional in-line tight end, an H-Back might best be described as a tight end/fullback hybrid used in a variety of roles such as blocking in the backfield, sent in motion and even split out wide.

It's not an idea foreign to the Packers. Tom Crabtree was frequently used in such a manner last season and to a lesser extent, so were Andrew Quarless and Jermichael Finley, although Finley leans more toward the wide receiver mold.

The addition of two of the newest Packers makes this possibility even more likely. Fifth-round draft choice D.J. Williams of Arkansas and seventh-round draft choice Ryan Taylor of North Carolina are both best described as H-Backs.

When the Packers selected both Williams and Taylor this past April, it caught some observers off guard seeing as the Packers have sufficient depth at tight end with Finley, Quarless and Crabtree. But it starts to make more sense when thinking how they might be utilized.

Williams is an intriguing prospect who had a very good college career and would seem to be a good bet of making the Packers' 53-man roster for risk of losing him.

Taylor isn't quite the sure bet Williams is, as he was drafted perhaps even more as a special teams player. But he'll also be a tough cut if he turns out to be the special teams player the Packers hope he can be given their problems in that phase of the game the past couple seasons.

Is it possible the Packers keep five "tight ends" on their roster this season? That may seem even more outrageous than keeping three fullbacks, but consider that many of them can be used almost interchangeably.

Last year the Packers kept a combined seven fullbacks and tight ends on their roster. That number may stay the same even if a player like Korey Hall or Quinn Johnson isn't a part of the Packers' plans is 2011.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Chad Toporski's picture

I completely agree.

After re-watching some of the Super Bowl the other day, I noticed Crabtree motioning a lot in singleback sets from the "TE" to the "FB" position.

McCarthy should be able to add some new wrinkles to his offense with the additional "H-backs."

I'm wondering how this will, in particular, affect McCarthy's use of the T-formation.

Nathan Jahnke's picture

First to just throw out some numbers because I can, on 25% of Crabtree's snaps, he lined up in the backfield as a FB(or the only back), on 10.5% of Quarless' snaps, and less than 2% of Finley's.

With that out of the way, I certainly think it's probable the Packers will use more tight ends in the traditional FB position, and that the Packers won't have 3 FB's on the roster.

Personally I'd like to see Korey Hall back, because I believe he is the best run blocker of the Packers fullbacks and tight ends last year(although I have no idea how good the rookies will be).

Then I'd hope the Packers keep Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn or Quinn Johnson because they all played well on pass plays both as blockers and receivers.

Because of that, I don't think they can keep all three fullbacks, but I think they will keep two if they can, which would mean five tight ends is certainly possible. If they go four tight ends, I would assume that means they go 4 HB's with Jackson.

Chris K's picture

I like the thought of the article but I cant see them going from 3 to 1 at FB.

They used traditional FB's in the backfield quite a bit last year. What if J.Kuhn gets injured? Then you have no true FB on the roster to bang it inside.
Quinn played more than Kuhn at FB last season and sure some of that is b/c we used Kuhn at RB but towards the end of the year when we had Starks up & running we still used Q. Johnson more.

I see Kuhn and Johnson making the cut. I know everyone wants to cut the guy but he blocks well inside running the ball.

BubbaOne's picture

Agree...abso-frickin-lutely. It's a passing league and we're a passing team. TE/H-Back gives MM more versatility than FB. Imagine a 3 TE set (Finley, Quarless, and DJ), w/ Green and Jennings. If D goes big to combat the O's size, AR could spread them 5 wide. D goes small, Packers run. Any way you look at it, mismatches abound.

Last year, TT kept 5WR-4TE-3FB-2RB = 14. I would be surprised if this year it wasn't 5-5-1-3 w/ the 1 FB being Kuhn. I think constant injuries to Hall and QJ's limited skills bring them a visit from the "Turk".

PistolPete's picture

I think I would rather see Crabtree in that 3 TE set than Quarless. Would be more of a threat, and more effective, running attack. Man, Green could be a really exciting addition in a set like that. Finley would be damn near undefendable if they got some momentum on the ground and with the short passing attack. And then Jennings leaves the corner on the floor with a slippery smooth juke to the post for 35 and a score!!!!

GO PACK GO!!!

Throw Cobb anywhere in there, lining up all over the field, and I guarantee Rodgers and McCarthy are absolutely salivating as much as we are.

BubbaOne's picture

I got no problemo using Tree instead of Q. Who knows, by mid season we may be saying we want Ryan Taylor. And yes, I mentioned Green specifically for what he could offer.

The off season is the time to dream up stuff. How about 4TE and w/ 2 of them and Green lined up in the Bone formation and AR audibles to 5 wide.

You want to see MM/AR salivate; how about a half dozen play pckg for 4.3 speedster Sam Shields at WR!!!

BubbaOne's picture

Question Re Sydney's comment of QJ..."where he’s running more to the A-hole"

Why would he be running to Scott Walker?

lebowski's picture

Seems he was given the task of blocking Jared Allen every game.

Boothie's picture

Come on... let's not go there... I don't read this for politics.

Mojo's picture

Bubba, you better watch what you say about Walker, he'll be packing heat soon.

Also, just watched the 2'nd game of the NBA finals. Wow. Could be a great series by the time it's all said and done.

Mojo's picture

With more passing options coming out of the back-field with the H-Back types, it's Giddy-Up in Titletown.

Only downside is if the H-Backs can't block we could lose something in grind down-the-clock and short yardage situations.

Winks's picture

Hell, I'm just impressed with the "Point of Veau" title.

PackersRS's picture

BLASPHEMY!!!

FB is the most vital position in all sports! Want proof?

Who had the most FBs in the roster last year? The Packers.

Who won the SB? The Packers.

I rest my case.

Wgbeethree's picture

Bubbaone hinted at this and I'm sure I've said this before on here but even more important IMO than the schematic possibilities, which are exciting, is the roster space HBacks could provide. Going from 4 TEs and 3 FBs to 2 TEs, 2 HBacks, and 1 FBs gives us the same possibilities from 5 players as opposed to 7 which allows us to keep 2 more players at other positions.

Chris K's picture

This is very interesting personnel-wise. My gut keeps telling me Kuhn & Quinn for the simple fact that sometimes you need a traditional FB as the Packers use and PackerRS mentioned...
But here's another tidbit, both James Starks and Ryan Grant run better from a singleback formation. The Bone(3 guys in backfield) was very successful but they both are guys that seem to see the field better being the lone back.
ALSO, the guy that they just drafted is not only a great catcher but a good runner from a 1 back offense. The Pack very well may keep JFinley, Quarless as the traditional TE's with Tom Crabtree and DJ williams as the H-Backs and only Kuhn at FB... Its a very interesting article.

See R Taylor as more of a p.s. guy

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