Much has been made about the Jacksonville Jaguars bringing the fullback back — and I’ll be the first to admit we’ve been part of that hype, jumping on Tom Coughlin’s comments that he wants a fullback on this roster, writing about when they signed Tommy Bohanon, and conducting a Q&A solely around our seventh-round rookie fullback in Marquez Williams.
The fullback is back. But just how much will they be a part of the Jaguars offense going forward? How much of a departure will that be from what Blake Bortles and the rest of the offense is used to? And is it in the best interest of an offensive line that still has some work to do when it comes to run blocking?
2016 Jaguars offense
Not surprisingly, the Jaguars ran the vast majority (76%) of their plays in 2016 out of 11 personnel — one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers, according to Sharp Football. Nearly all the rest of the plays (20%) were out of 12 personnel — one running back, two tight ends, and two receivers.
That leaves 4% of their offense — 44 plays — where the Jaguars did something different.
Two plays were 10 formation — single-back with four receivers.
Four plays were 01 formation — single-tight end with four receivers.
Five plays were 02 formation — double-tight end with three receivers.
That leaves 33 plays where the Jaguars used a player as a “fullback” (which is in quotes because the team didn’t have a true fullback, instead opting for a third tight end coming in motion or Tyson Alualu).
So, we can safely say that having a fullback will be a true departure from what the Jaguars did last season. But even if the Jaguars change their offense to come in line with what the NFL average is when it comes to fullbacks (or even play fullback-heavy) how important will a fullback really be?
Fullbacks in the NFL
When you look at the league as a whole and how often they ran the most common fullback formations, you see that they were only run 11% of the time on average — 21 formation which is two running backs and one tight end, 22 formation which is two running backs and two tight ends, and 20 formation which is two running backs and three receivers.
Only three teams ran a fullback out of one of these formations more than 25% of the time — the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, and (not surprisingly) Buffalo Bills.
Now, let’s assume that the Jaguars go up to 25% of snaps out of one of those three formations where the fullback acts as a true fullback. That would put the Jaguars near the top of the league. That’s only 16.6 plays a game. I knew the fullback was sparingly used, but even at the top of the league, it’s used a lot less than I thought it was.
The Jaguars will use a fullback next year and they will likely pair it with frequent two-tight end sets. Just don’t expect a fullback to be what saves this Jaguars running game or is the key to unlocking Leonard Fournette’s potential in the NFL. If the Jaguars are going to be successful, they will still need to learn how to run the ball out of the shotgun and out of single-back formations.
And if last year is any indication, that’s going to be an uphill battle.