My brother, a longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan, got me into fullbacks. He was a fullback himself for the Vermont division IV 8-man varsity football team in the early 2000’s on a squad that didn’t lose a game in four years, so the fullback position was cool in my eyes. If you’re able to put two (Tampa Bay early 2000’s) and two (fullback) together, you’ll see an early influence; Mike Alstott. With the cowboy collar and glove-less hands, Alstott was the best of both worlds: a nasty lead blocker and punishing runner. Unfortunately for everyone, Alstott retired in 2006, and so did the early 2000’s style of play. Spread offenses have taken over and pushed the traditional fullback out of the league.
That doesn’t mean that all is lost for the fullback, however. Particularly in Green Bay.
Enter Jamaal Williams.
I can feel the eyes rolling back in your head — just stay with me here. It’s the offseason and I was cooped up inside for four days straight so let’s turn our collective minds to the unorthodox.
Green Bay used Lance Kendricks as their de facto fullback last year, with mixed results. While Kendricks never took a handoff and was never in the backfield in the shotgun, he would occasionally peel out for a pass but was predominantly a blocker for the running back behind him.
Notice I didn’t say lead blocker. Kendricks very rarely was asked to block at the point of attack, instead acting as the split man sealing the backside edge in zone splits or going to the weak side. Kendricks was okay with these assignments — as good as any tight end can be reasonably expected to be, anyway. He usually got in the way of his defender, which is more than we can say about Jimmy Graham (more on that later this winter).
I think Jamaal Williams could make this block 10/10 times. Kendricks isn’t hitting a blitzing LB or a lineman, and he shouldn’t be asked to because he’ll lose those battles more often than not.
Pretty much anyone can manage to make this kind of block:
Williams would be no exception here. Now I’m not projecting Williams to be a road grader. Williams is a very capable running back who seeks out contact with every run; this is a guy who likes the physical side of his position. I mean...
There’s some nasty in this kid. Don’t let his charming smile and consistently sunny demeanor fool you; Williams is a physical specimen and he’s proven himself more than capable as a pass blocker. He not only has the willingness to block, which many backs do not, he also has the technical skills and knowledge of blocking schemes already under wraps.
This play in week one resulted in a 50 yard gain for Davante Adams, and the drive ended with a touchdown which helped the Packers come back from their huge deficit:
It’s beautiful. He gets low on contact, absorbs the hit and quickly resets his feet, while working his hands back inside to maintain proper positioning. This was a game-changing block.
This wasn’t a one-time occurrence, either. This one might be my favorite blitz pickups of the year:
Jamaal leans into his punch a bit too much, but it’s such a forceful strike it knocks the linebacker off his line. What’s really impressive though is the alertness and effort; he knows his man is going to keep going after Rodgers, so he immediately picks himself up and goes back for another block. If Lucas Patrick didn’t stop blocking all of a sudden, Rodgers would have had a lane to step up into.
Offensive linemen love it when their defender jumps to bat a pass; it’s an easy opportunity to put someone on the ground. Williams isn’t a lineman but he gets a glimpse of that feeling anyway against the Rams with this block:
Remember how I said the block against the Jets was my favorite? I think I lied. This one makes me feel things:
I could go on and on about his pass blocking. And I will! It’s legitimately fun to watch, and I want to drive my point home; the guy has decent pass blocking footwork, powerful first contact, and a will to finish his blocks until his defender is either in the ground or driven so far back he’s picking up an overpriced Bud Light on the upper deck.
Watch the extension and the left foot following through in this block:
He knows he has an opportunity to pancake a guy and he takes full advantage.
Pancaking not an option? Not a problem. Williams displays an advanced-for-his-position knowledge of the dynamics of a pocket, and will use a blitzing defender’s path of travel against himself to wash the defender away like he’s in an oxi-clean commercial.
I can hear a little voice saying ‘target acquired...target locked’ when he goes to pickup a blitzer.
If Williams ever sees time at fullback, not everything is going to be pass protection and backside cut blocks. Plays like the following are going to be the biggest question mark:
Having never been used as a run blocker in the professional level, the ability to lock on to an inside linebacker and not give up ground will be difficult. Kendricks doesn’t have to plow his guy over, but he does need to have a wide and low base in order to not give up ground and plug Aaron Jones’ running lane.
As luck would have it, there’s precedent in the Green Bay coaching staff for having two quality running backs on the field at the same time. Matt LaFleur played around with the idea last year with the Titans, as he had thunder and lightning on his team with Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry. With a thin receiving corps why not have two of your top offensive weapons on the field at the same time? The fact that they play the same position shouldn’t matter, as the league has seen a huge jump in the usage of running backs as wide receivers. Just as basketball has embraced position-less basketball, a playmaker is a playmaker and a team should field the most skilled talent on the field at any given time.
Having Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones on the field gives you two viable threats running or receiving with the ability to line them up pretty much anywhere. Both can run and catch, and I think one has the ability to block with the best of ‘em. Next week I’ll get into how the Packers could utilize two-back sets and add a new flavor to the bland soup that has become the Green Bay offense.
Oh, and I lied to you yet again, sorry - this is definitely my favorite block. I mean, are you freaking kidding me? Get that weak stuff outta my face, Anthony Barr.