Create Account

Or log in with Facebook


Log in

Or log in with Facebook

'Sky is the limit' for Vitale, fullbacks in Packers' new offense

By Category

'Sky is the limit' for Vitale, fullbacks in Packers' new offense

-- New opportunities await whoever pounces on them first, and the same school of thought could apply to the bevy of position battles that will take place on the Green Bay Packers' roster this summer.

But one of the positions that have a chance to see the biggest overhaul in training camp is fullback, which now has new life in Matt LaFleur's offense.

This means Danny Vitale, the lone true fullback on the roster, could be even more a part of the team's plans in 2019 than initially planned when he was signed to the practice squad in October of 2018, and eventually the active roster by December.

"Looking at those teams, it's a fullbacks dream," Vitale told Wes Hodkiewicz of, referencing past teams in which Mike and Kyle Shanahan -- a coaching tree that Lafleur stems from -- operated with the modern fullback.

Vitale is one of two fullbacks on the Packers' roster. The other being Malcolm Johnson, who, despite being listed as a running back, will function as a fullback in LaFleur's offense. At Mississippi State, he served as a tight end, or "wingback," leading all SEC freshmen tight ends in receptions and receiving yards in his first year.

Vitale, however, is the early favorite as the starter and the likely face to emerge from the training camp slate as the lone fullback on the roster. Rightfully so, considering he's demonstrated a do-it-all ability that best suits what LaFleur is looking for.

The Packers need Vitale to run, catch out of the backfield and play a role on special teams -- all of which, Vitale is fully capable of doing.

"It's not just is-blocks anymore," Vitale continued. "Just being able to see everything and move quick enough is a big deal now. Obviously throw in the routes and you can create mismatches, and nightmares for everybody out there. Having that versatility is just huge for the position. I think that's the only way it's going to stick around."

Vitale was only active for five games last season since being signed to the Packers' active roster, catching one pass for two yards, but finishing the campaign without a single carry under his belt. That's certainly expected to change under LaFleur's watch, with new concepts being implemented to vastly help improve the Packers' offensive arsenal.

"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."


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

  • Like Like
  • 4 points

Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (25) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

albert999's picture

love Vitale
tough kid

Lare's picture

It's unknown at this point what role, if any, Vitale will play in the new offense. Considering he's still on the roster we have to assume that LaFleur's offense has plans to use a FB in its scheme, but then again they seem to be looking at upgrading the TE position so they may go that route instead.

Lots of questions will be answered in training camp and during the final roster cutdowns.

Coldworld's picture

Well he is on the 90. Whether a FB makes the team is a different question. I was not all that impressed with his blocking. He has good hands, but if he can’t road grade I don’t see it working out due to the TEs and WRs. Simply put, he has to help the run game more than any of them can and be effective in pass blocking and catching.

LaFleur went to a FB during the season after both his top two TEs were sidelined. Would he have preferred a different route were it not for that? Arguably a competent blocker at TE offers more misdirection opportunities. Another fun thing to watch in camp.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Agreed. At 6' even and 239 lbs (but 30 reps), he is a little undersized to be a thumper, and his lead blocking didn't look great, albeit in just 19 snaps. He did have 132 snaps in 2017 and 74 in 2016 in Cleveland, but one would have to go back to 2015 at Northwestern to find any production. He is a good athlete, with a 123" broad, 38.5" vertical, 4.12 20 yd shuttle, 7.12 three cone. His 1.61 10 yard dash is okay.

He has a one year deal at $720K, but would be an RFA next season. Getting a little expensive for an ST only guy.

He looks like a guy who can do a lot of things reasonably well, but lacks an outstanding physical trait, also known as Justin Perillo disease. We will see if he can find a niche in the MALF offense.

dobber's picture

Does he need to be a thumper in an offense featuring primarily zone reads?

In the end, his ticket to the roster may be as much ST as anything else.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I suppose not. I am just a little confused because per APC Vitale bulked up over the offseason (despite the fact that he did 30 reps at the combine back in 2016). His scouting report suggested that his frame was already maxed out. I worry that he has Justin Perillo disease: he lacks an outstanding physical trait or nfl-level ability.

Vitale played a lot of ST snaps under Mennenga in Cleveland, so that should help. Who knows, perhaps he can find a niche in this offense.

flackcatcher's picture

Packers cut two FB last year for the same reasons, too small, couldn't block on the blindside. Signed Vitale to the PS then the 53 mainly due to injuries at TE. Packers need a blindside protector for Rodgers as age has caught up with him, but finding a big RB/FB is hard as college football has moved away not only from the classic FB, but now is fading out the H-back out of their spread formations. Best bet is to do what the Packers have done in the past, and looks like what they are doing now, Fine a big RB and develop him in your system. Look for Gute to pick to pick up another big RB for the PS during the season.

Coldworld's picture

Dobber, we have a lot of 220-240 types who could fill that type of special team role. I don’t think he beats out a younger rookie unless he is much better on ST.

Ultimately, with this 90 man roster, I do think it comes down to his demonstrating superior blocking prowess in comparison to Johnson and the TEs as well as Williams. Without that I’d bet they go a different direction.

NMPF's picture

Get ready to see the field set a fire with a FB that has 0, nada ,zilch rush yards in 3 nfl seasons and a whopping 48 yards in receptions. I'm sure he's a great kid and all but the numbers game of 53 roster spots say this article is another Jacobson fluff piece.

fastmoving's picture

he talks about the future chances, not the past.

GRB1531's picture

Take a look back at the last SB and see how important #46 of the Pats was in the runs for Michel. Michel was not effective without the blocks of the Pats FB

nostradanus's picture

I’m on the Vitale bandwagon. If you watch his days at Northwestern you see a guy with toughness, the hands of a WR and a take no prisoners attitude. Sign me up for the V train man. Woo Woo!
Go Pack!
That is all...

stockholder's picture

Larry Csonka.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

Vitale will make Larry Czonka and the rest of the ‘72 Dolphins cry as he carries the Pack to 19-0.

jannes bjornson's picture

Le Fleur will use him to flare out and get the 3rd and two yardage from the TE and FB interplay. He will lead block out in space on the wide zone runs. The pile-driver has been banned by the NFL. Vitale can get the job done and gives sp teams an inside guy. The Guru has left the building.

Hawg Hanner's picture

We need a Jim Taylor/John Riggins type guy who explodes against the first tackler and can blow up the DB's and small linebackers, and stand-off the larger guys blocking. Hope this lad Vitale is viable but when you get a guy off the street in this league it is best to not get too excited.

jannes bjornson's picture

If you want guys like that you have to pick high in the draft. Zeke, Barkley,
Gurley are a rare group.

Coldworld's picture

Well, I suppose if you are going to pick up a guy off the street then full back probably offers the biggest pool of decent players.

I like many things about Vitale, but I just can’t see that the position offers more unless he is a really good lead blocker. If he is just average then a TE seems to offer more.

As I have said, his blocking really did not impress me, but, as TGR points out, he hardly got in rhythm. Since I cut Lewis slack last year for the same reason, have to do so for Vitale. If he can block well, he does have really good hands and experience running the ball.

Overall, if he makes the team it seems to me it will only happen if he proves a noticeably better blocker than the TEs or Malcom Johnson (who also has good hands and nfl experience) based on how LaFleur’s system seems to be taking shape.

He needs to go into camp and start blowing up some defenders.

Lphill's picture

May be a big special teams contributor I think he has played some linebacker in his career, I think he makes the 53 .

Handsback's picture

Vitale needs a good year. He hasn't proven anything yet in the pros.

D Ernie's picture

3 seasons and he's done nothing. Considering rb injuries you would expect he had chances?
He will get a chance for sure. Wish him luck

LambeauPlain's picture

I think two TEs or 2 RBs will get more snaps than the classic RB/FB formation.

With Williams blocking and receiving prowess to go with AJs electric running, ML could call some interesting options.

Also....Graham/Sternberger....Graham/Lewis....Tonyan/Sternberger, etc has good play possibilities.

greengold's picture

I think Vitale is a rock solid lock to make the 53. This is gonna be really, really good. I can't wait to see LaFleur's offense in action this season. We are going to witness something very special.

Running the ball will chew clock and keep opposing offenses on the sidelines. It will open up so much in the passing game, especially the play action. It will make life easier for our OL. It will make life easier for our entire D. We have been needing a run oriented approach, or, at least some real balance for years. It will help to keep Aaron Rodgers healthy too.

Vitale will play a big part in making that all happen. Not to mention, he'll be a fantastic outlet for Rodgers in the passing game. His STs experience will help push him over the edge into a roster lock.

Point Packer's picture

Next Barry Sanders, no doubt in my mind.

leaerin4's picture

With two new guards and Vitale who's a freaky fullback with speed and strength to block for Aaron Jones, our running game should be explosive this year. Rodgers will benefit from a running game and our play action passing game will we lightning fast too!!! GO PACK GO!!!

Log in to comment, upload your game day photos and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.

Or log in with Facebook

Packers Tickets, Ticket King


"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. "
"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
"The Bears still suck!"