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The Fullback Role With the Packers Should Remain Intact

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The Fullback Role With the Packers Should Remain Intact

Is the fullback position dead in the Packers offense?  Hearing the thoughts of some, one would be led to believe that it is. 

While the days of Daryl Johnston plowing the way for Emmitt Smith are pretty much dead in the NFL, a fullback of Aaron Ripkowski’s skill set and talent has plenty of room in an offense like the Packers.  Many other teams around the league have done away with the position and I believe it would be a mistake for the Packers to go that direction with a player like Ripkowski on their roster.

The basis of the comments from some fans on ditching the position is due to the fact that the Packers now have a strong tight end group.  If the team opts to keep an abundance of them on the final 53-man roster, the room just won’t be there for a fullback.  On top of that, some are in the camp that a tight end can play effectively out of the backfield on snaps in more of a fullback role.  I call BS on both of those thoughts.

Since Ripkowski was drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma, he has proven to be a solid asset to the Packers offense and special teams units.  His breakout season came in 2016 after the Packers let John Kuhn walk in free agency.  During that season, Rip showed a great ability to run the ball in short yardage situations, a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield and the ability to pass protect with the best of them.  He would wind up carrying the ball 34 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns while adding nine receptions for 46 yards and one touchdown through the air.

Into 2017, Rip would see a regression on the stat sheet but his value to the offense and to the special teams units wouldn’t go unnoticed.  While only seeing 12 total touches on the season, he was featured mostly as a pass protecting back on passing downs with Brett Hundley in the lineup.  Once again in that role, Ripkowski would thrive in helping keep the quarterback upright.  His year total of 180 snaps on offense didn’t set the world on fire, but seeing 196 plays on special teams sure was an asset to the units.

Looking to Ripkowski’s future and the fullback position’s future in general with the Packers, recent history says a lot about how the team feels about the need for the position.  When John Kuhn was the prominent fullback for the team, he was the sole man on the roster and was featured heavily at times.  In 2015, both Kuhn and Rip made the final 53-man squad.  In the two previous years, Rip was the main man on the final roster.

When questioned about the position a few years ago, Head Coach Mike McCarthy made his thoughts on the position clear by saying that having a fullback is a must on offense.  He added to that thought by saying that the ability to contribute on special teams is a high priority for the Packers coaching staff.

With that said, I don’t see the Packers following other teams that have completely ditched the fullback position.  Rip is entering the final year of his rookie contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2019.  Minus the San Francisco 49ers, who paid a hefty price for Kyle Juszczyk, most fullbacks are signed at a very reasonable price per year on their contracts.  The value that a guy like Ripkowski brings to the table on both offense and special teams won’t be overlooked by Brian Gutekunst or the Packers coaching staff this year or the years to come.  I’m looking for Rip to continue into 2018 as a standout special teams guy that has a distinct role in the offense with Aaron Rodgers back under center.

________________________

Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Since '61's picture

I see no reason why the Packers should "ditch" the FB position. Rip is a valuable ST player. Secondly and maybe more importantly he is an additional blocker for protecting AR in passing situations. Protecting AR is job #1 for this team and Rip or the FB position has always been a part of that role for the Packers. Plus Rip is an effective short yardage RB.

Rip is a good football player. I would rather have good football players on the team than a 6th or 7th WR or 9th or 10th OL who rarely gets on the field or even dressed for most games and is a marginal performer when they do get in a game.

Having a FB is another wrinkle that an opposing DC needs to account for. Go Rip Go! Thanks, Since '61

Chuck Farley's picture

If the packs dumped him tomorrow, he would be out of football. He has done nothing and is taking roster space. Even Kuhn over stayed his welcome but mm wants a bull rusher.

GBPDAN1's picture

The physicality of RIP lead blocking for the punishing run style of Williams, on short down situations, is a good feature to add to this offense.

Tundraboy's picture

Yawn. I'm sure Rip makes the team and perhaps some "FB" makes special teams.

Ryan Graham's picture

You may yawn now, Tundraboy, but in December against the Lions, Falcons, Vikings and Bears having that physicality may just be the difference. Cant afford to lose him on offense or special teams. Hes another dynamic, a protector, and a strong presence in cold weather situations.

Tundraboy's picture

I'm his biggest fan. Just an article about FBs is not of great interest to me. More interested in how Biegel, M. Adams and the new WR picks look so far. Wow tough crowd lately.

Duke Divine's picture

Always a tough crowd. Gotta bring it, son.

Tundraboy's picture

And how Spriggs and Bulaga are progressing.

Nick Perry's picture

Seems you have a hater TB... Everyone of your comments lately seem to have a "Dislike" when there's absolutely no reason for it. I know you don't care about that sort of thing and nor do I but it still irks me a little.

Dislike the comment for the comment itself, not the person making it. I know the persons name attached to the dislike would take care of most of it in a hurry!

Tundraboy's picture

Thanks NP. Go Pack Go. Should be safe with that one! Lol

Chuck Farley's picture

Ya he was a force. Not!

Fordham Ram's picture

I noticed Kerridge has returned and on the 90 man squad. I hope he survives cut down and makes the team. He's just as good as Rip maybe an even better blocker. Can't we keep both, sorry he got cut. Maybe they find space for him this year. He is a baller in the old football style and you can never have enough of them.

Lare's picture

I like Ripkowski, but he didn't have a very good year in 2017. He noticeably whiffed on a number of blocks and as a result his offensive snap count was about half of what it was the previous season (180 vs 288).

If Aaron wants to make the 2018 roster he needs to work on cleaning up his blocking. That and special teams will help him secure a spot on the roster.

HankScorpio's picture

I think the article oversells Ripkowski as a player. But I'm huge fan of varied personnel groupings on offense so whether it is Rip or Kerridge, I hope they'll keep one. Heck, even pick up someone beside those two after cuts, if the talent is there.

I go back to the regular season finale the first time Rodger broke his collarbone. They needed a win to clinch the division. Everyone remembers the Rodgers to Cobb bomb that won it. That play never happens if John Kuhn didn't deliver a tremendous block on Julius Peppers to give Rodgers the time and space to make that throw. Best pass pro block I've ever seen from a back, especially considering the HoFer that was blocked and the result of the play. That's why I want to keep a FB on the roster.

Lare's picture

Agree, but for a player like Ripkowski who only had 5 carries for 13 yards last season along with 7 receptions for 39 yards, does it really matter if that player is a FB or a TE?

HankScorpio's picture

I don't judge any player by their production last year. Except Hundley. He was so bad, everyone else gets a bit of a pass from me.

But the point is not unreasonable. That's one of the reasons I'm not sold on Ripkowski. I don't expect him to put up 500 rush/rec yards. But 200-300 is not an unreasonable expectation.

Duke Divine's picture

All I think of is RIP's fumble on a first down gaining run in the red zone in the NFC championship, killing the momentum of a 2nd quarter drive to cut it to 7.... I hope this position group can replace that memory throughout the next few years

Johnblood27's picture

Thanks a lot, now Im sick again...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I fully support having a fullback on the 53-man roster. Rip being that fullback, well, not so much. Too many whiffs blocking last season, especially on lead blocks.

I think Kerridge is a better pure blocker. Not sure how Kerridge is on STs. I do think there should be an open competition at least between Rip and Kerridge.

Matt Gonzales's picture

Even if he had an unremarkable (IE: good for that role) year I’d still agree. You can’t just wait until the weather gets cold to sign a FB off the “ready to play FA FB” tree, so whoever is in that roster spot needs to be ready to contribute in all phases (pass protection, short yardage, short passing, ST).

Duke Divine's picture

What's this "fullback" you speak of?

Chuck Farley's picture

I'm a non fullback guy. Mm will always have his bullrusher guy. I fear that speed back out of the backfield who can catch and scoot through an opening freez8ng the d. A fb says I'm coming at you and teams say so what you can't catch so were not afraid.

badaxed's picture

DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!

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