On Monday morning, Danny Kelly of The Ringer published an interesting look at the way positions are named in the NFL. Specifically, he argues that it’s time to completely revolutionize position names to reflect the league’s trends and players’ specific roles.
For example: calling a player like Morgan Burnett a safety ignores the other roles that he plays, including lining up at inside linebacker and in the slot. Therefore, Kelly proposes a new “enforcer” title for such a player, mentioning Deone Bucannon, Mark Barron, and Kam Chancellor as examples:
None play in the same scheme, but designations aside, their roles as undersized mid-level players are all pretty similar: All three must bring enough power to take on blocks and tackle ball-carriers in the run game while, at the same time, possessing enough speed to blitz from any angle or run with tight ends and backs in coverage.
Kelly breaks down each position on offense and defense into new categories (with one exception that we could think of), so let’s take a look at how a few players on the Packers’ roster would fit into this new nomenclature.
Rooks: Ty Montgomery
Bishops: Aaron Jones
Truckers: Jamaal Williams, Davante Mays, Will Stanback, Kalif Phillips
Dozers: Aaron Ripkowski, Joe Kerridge
Montgomery fits in perfectly with the receiver/running back hybrid category, even as he has transitioned to the running back room since the middle of last season. We expect him to still split and motion out wide with regularity to create mismatches. Jones gets the “third-down back” label, and one look at his tape from UTEP should explain why. The other backs fall more into the traditional power running back category.
The fullbacks/Dozers should need no further explanation.
Wingers: Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, DeANgelo Yancey, Malachi Dupre
Splitters: Randall Cobb, Jeff Janis(?)
Kelly distinguishes receivers who primarily play wide from those who are traditional slot weapons. Of the Packers’ established receivers, Cobb is the only one who is almost exclusively a slot player. Nelson might get there in time, but for now he still has plenty of value as a deep boundary threat and a target for back-shoulder throws along the sideline.
Janis’ role as a receiver continues to be fuzzy. He has lined up in the slot quite a bit, but also plays on the boundary. However, to be truly considered a splitter, he probably still needs work on his route-running skills.
Jack: Martellus Bennett, Richard Rodgers(?)
Joker: Aaron Peck
Ace: Lance Kendricks, Rodgers(?)
Kelly doesn’t discuss the “Ace” position, so I created that name to fit with the playing card theme. Kendricks is more of a prototypical H-back, an old name for a hybrid tight end/fullback who moves around the formation and often lines up in the backfield or split off the line of scrimmage. Since an Ace is a versatile card in Poker and Blackjack, it seems a reasonable name. Bennett absolutely fits into the traditional in-line tight end role. Rodgers is the tougher player to judge here, as he has been used as both a traditional in-line tight end and an H-back. The Packers don’t currently have a “Joker” type tight end in their top three, but one need only look back to Jermichael Finley to find a prototypical player to describe what that position entails.
Sentinels: Davon House, Kevin King, Quinten Rollins(?), LaDarius Gunter
Badgers: Damarious Randall, Rollins(?)
Rangers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Marwin Evans
Robbers: Kentrell Brice
Enforcers: Morgan Burnett, Josh Jones
This is a fun exercise with the DBs, as the Packers have players that fit every designation. Sentinels represent the boundary corners, while the Badger position is the do-it-all slot player — Micah Hyde being perhaps the best example in recent years. Now that designation goes to Randall, provided that he returns to the field soon from his concussion.
At the safety position, Burnett and Jones get a similar title to Bucannon and Chancellor, as the two players will be playing in the hybrid safety/linebacker role extensively this season. Kelly further divides up the safeties into free and strong safety roles, though for the Packers those players’ duties are reasonably similar.
Lurkers: Jake Ryan, Joe Thomas, Blake Martinez
Disruptors: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Jayrone Elliott
Dragoons: Mike Daniels, Dean Lowry, Ricky Jean Francois
Anchors: Kenny Clark, Brian Price
This is the area that has evolved the most already, even before Kelly’s article. Most analysts now look at players independent of defensive scheme; this leads to names like “off-ball linebackers” for 3-4 ILBs and all 4-3 LBs; “edge rushers” to denote 3-4 OLBs and 4-3 DEs; and “interior linemen” replacing 3-4 DEs and 4-3 DTs. Kelly essentially does the same thing, with Lurkers, Disruptors and Dragoons representing those categories in that order. He does add a fourth group, though, to denote traditional nose tackles. Clark probably straddles the line between Dragoon and Anchor, though, especially given the rarity with which the Packers use a three-man line.
What are your thoughts on Kelly’s nomenclature? Do you have better ideas for the names, or for how a certain Packer should be categorized?