Wednesday, July 21, 2010

CCQ #10: Is there any reason to keep three FBs again?

This is the third installment of our Camp Countdown Questions series. Each day leading up to July 31st, we'll be posing a crucial question the Pack need to answer in training camp.

Last year, one of the biggest questions entering camp was which fullback would be cut. The Packers had drafted Quinn Johnson in April, adding a powerful run blocker to a group that already included proven veterans John Kuhn and Korey Hall. The logic of most at the time was that the Packers just couldn't afford to use three roster spots up on a position of diminishing importance, and that they'd be forced to part ways with one of the veterans.

However, Ted Thompson had different things in mind, and the Packers opted to retain all three FBs, a highly unorthodox move in this era of pass happy offenses. Now, nearly one year later, we can't help but to there any reason to do it again?

In order to answer this question, we need to revisit the Packers' reasons for keeping three fullbacks last August and see if they apply today.

The primary causative factor can be traced back to April 26, 2009, when the Packers selected Johnson in the 5th round of the NFL Draft. Now, as we've already mentioned, the Packers already had a pair of capable FBs on the roster, so this move seemed nearly as strange as the one it would lead to four months later.

But the Packers had become infatuated with Johnson's size, strength, and toughness, and believed that he had the potential to become a dominating lead blocker and a freight train of a short-yardage back. As Ted Thompson demonstrated then (and again in this year's draft when he selected TE Andrew Quarless), already having proven players at a position will not prevent him from adding additional talent.

However, while it was obvious that Johnson had great potential, it was just as clear that he would need time to develop. Though given every opportunity to overtake Hall and Kuhn, Johnson struggled mightily in camp and had difficulty transitioning into the Packers' zone-blocking scheme. It looked doubtful that he'd be ready to be a solid contributor, let alone an every-down starter.

Seemingly, the Packers had two options at this point:
  • Cut either Kuhn or Hall and hope that Quinn is able to perform adequately
  • Keep Kuhn and Hall on the 53 man roster while attempting to sneak Johnson onto the practice squad
Of course, either option had risks associated with it. If the Packers axed one of their veterans, but Johnson proved to be absolutely inadequate, they'd be left with only one playable fullback on the squad, not to mention a hole on their special teams units. Yet at the same time, attempting to stow the rookie fullback on the practice squad without another team poaching him was a dangerous gamble in and of itself (see: Brohm, Brian and Meredith, Jamon).

In the end, the potential consequences of both options were considered unacceptable. The Packers didn't want a drop-off at fullback, but they also didn't want to see Quinn wearing another team's colors. So Ted Thompson selected "Choice C" and held on to all three.

In other words, the Packers' decision to keep three fullbacks boils down to the fact that they coveted Quinn Johnson, yet he wasn't ready to play. In order for Ted Thompson to repeat last year's move, both of these conditions would have to exist again today. Let's see if they do.

A brief examination of what Johnson did last year should be able to tell us all what we need to know. Although he didn't play much (he was active for only 9 games), Quinn Johnson did make an impact when he was in, however briefly. In fact, as Jersey Al noted, when Quinn was on the field he did exactly what the Packers drafted him to do: lay people out. He wasn't exactly a stalwart catching the ball (2 receptions, 4 yards, and he bobbled and fell down on one of them) and he has yet to get a carry, but we all know that his primary purpose on the Packers is clearing holes for Ryan Grant. In that regard, so far, so good.

This observation tells us two things: 1) the Packers are still high on Quinn and 2) he has improved to the point where he is at least serviceable. The same combination of factors that forced TT to keep three FBs last year do not appear to be present this year. Someone is expendable. Someone will be cut. The Packers have no reason to hang on to three fullbacks again. Now just who stays and who goes will be a discussion that we'll save for training camp (but my prediction is that the FB not pictured in this article will be the odd one out).

Make sure to check out all other installments of the Camp Countdown Questions series!


    1. Interesting. I loved the pancake picture. But why do you tease me? Give me your prediction!

    2. Lol. His prediction is that Hall will be gone (#30 on the first picture is John Kuhn).
      Interesting. I'm pretty sure the reason both Kuhn and Hall were kept was because of ST play. So, as long as there isn't anyone more suitable for ST, I believe both will be kept. But I think this year, we'll either keep 11 OL, 4 TE or 3 FB. Donald Lee and Quarless might be the guys that take over for one FB on ST (Havner already is a great ST player). Newhouse might as well be that guy.

    3. Anybody else miss William Henderson?

    4. I think differently Jonathan. Hall has the defensive instincts (he played LB at BYU) to make him be a standout special teams player every year, which he has been, and I don't see much difference besides that in their productivity and offensive talents. Both are decent receivers and can do their job in pass coverage but because of Halls LB experience he is a better special teams player, and with Quarless, Lee, and Havner, I think Kuhn will get cut and we'll be seeing more of Havner (hopefully) coming out of the backfield to receive.

      Oh an yes, I do miss William Henderson.
      I kind of even miss Nick Luchey.

    5. PackersRS-

      Your comments are spot on. STs probably had a lot to do with both Kuhn and Hall sticking around.

      However, with Lee and Quarless now in the mix for STs, I think it becomes a lot tougher for the Pack to justify keeping both Kuhn and Hall. Why take a FB who can play STs when you can have a TE who can plays STs? Excellent point. Bringing it up in CCQ #8.