Kyle Juszczyk – the 49ers newest fullback, signed a 4 year $21 million deal this off season. Which made him the NFLs highest paid fullback by a mile. Why did the 49ers pay so much for a guy who plays a position that a lot of teams don’t use anymore? New GM John Lynch called him an Offensive Weapon, and after watching him on tape, hes obviously more than just a full back.
The Ravens lined him up all over the formation when they had him on the field. When he was lined up as an inline tight end (which seemed to be more often than he was lined up as a traditional fulback) Joe Flaaco seemed to look his way almost every time. The Ravens seemed to design plays with Juszczyk in mind, especially on third down.
Juszczyk does a lot well – when asked to block in pass protection out of the back field he excels. He lined up as a single back on 3rd downs in key points last season for the Ravens and fared very well in pass protection. On key downs, especially early in games, the Ravens really got him involved in the passing game playing him as a tight end. He runs good routes in and out of the backfield making him more than just your prototypical fullback, he really is an offensive weapon.
Last season in Atlanta where Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator, they had a fullback – Patrick Dimarco. When Dimarco was on the field, the Falcons mostly lined up in the traditional I formation.
This seemed to be the most common formation that Shanahan liked to run with Dimarco on the field (21 personnel). Occasionally Dimarco would go from the I and split out wide to run a passing route, but he was mostly used as a traditional Full Back as a lead blocker, or was used as pass protection while the running back ran a passing route.
Juszczyk is a much more versatile player than Dimarco because Kyle can do all the fullback duties that Dimarco handled and then some. One way that Shanahan can utilize Juszczyk is to have him line up as a tight end where he can either run a passing route or can come back into the backfield to block from the running back like a traditional fullback.
Divisional round Atlanta vs Seatlle 12 personnel (1 back 2 TEs).
The flexibility of Juszczyk allows the offense to create a situation where Shanahan can call plays from both the 12 and 21 personnel with the same players on the field. Especially in situations where no-huddle or hurry-up is ran, this gives the team more options and does not let the defense substitute players in and out. If the defense has players in to stop the pass with 12 personnel, send juszczyk into the backfield as a blocker for Carlos Hyde and run it right at them. If the defense is stopping the run for 21 personnel, send Juszczyk out wide or inline as a tight end and throw the ball.
Then this is where play-action can really come in handy. The defense is expecting a run with Juszczyk in the back field, use a hard play-action and throw over the top if the free safety bites on the fake. The flexibility is what makes Juszczyk such an important player for this offense. He may only touch the ball 6 or 7 times a game, but his presence will be felt on every down that he is on the field. One thing is for sure, I can’t wait for the season to start to see what kind of packages Shanahan has in store for the new OW – Kyle Juszczyk.