On Sunday, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst made a notable admission when he spoke to reporters via videoconference. Amid all of the discussions about the Packers’ “new” offensive approach under Matt LaFleur, the 2020 offseason seemed to suggest that the team is looking for players at the H-back position.
Consider in particular that the team spent a third-round draft pick on Josiah Deguara, an ideal fit for that spot. The team also added fullback/tight end hybrid Jordan Jones as an undrafted free agent. On Friday, the team claimed H-back John Lovett on waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs, letting Jones go in his place.
And on Sunday, Gutekunst’s comments revealed a truth about the team’s approach: they do indeed value the H-back position more heavily now than before.
“We just maybe value certain players a little differently, maybe, but it’s not a lot. With what Matt wants to do on offense, we maybe value players a little differently,” Gutekunst told reporters, in the clearest public acknowledgement so far of the teams shifting positional tendencies. In this frame of mind, the Packers really are looking for their own version of Kyle Juszczyk, the San Francisco 49ers fullback/H-back who has become one of that team’s biggest X-factors.
After that admission, Gutekunst tried to hedge a bit, saying “we always scouted those kinds of players and had room for them.” Dan Vitale would seem to fit that mold, as the team tried to use him as both a lead-blocker and a receiving option out of the backfield. But in the years prior to Vitale’s arrival, which coincided almost perfectly with Mike McCarthy’s firing, the Packers had more conventional fullbacks like Aaron Ripkowski and John Kuhn. Neither of those players would be confused for Juszczyk, whose talents as both a receiver and a blocker make him a rare player.
As for Lovett, the Packers clearly think highly of him. They brought him in for a pre-draft visit in 2019 and Gutekunst said that they did try to sign him as an undrafted free agent, unfortunately losing out to the Kansas City Chiefs. “He was a do-it-all player at Princeton,” Gutekunst said; “I think his transition into the kind of H-back/fullback role is something back in ‘19 we were excited about. When we get him through the protocols and get him in the building, it will be exciting to see what he can do.”
Lovett may be an ideal candidate for a practice squad spot in 2019 as he picks up the Packers’ offensive scheme — one in which he appears to fit seamlessly. And if the Packers see Deguara or one of their other H-back candidates lost to injury or on the shelf for a time due to the coronavirus, Lovett should be the next man up.