Life without the fullback

Al Bello

What does this mean to the run game?

Despite playing in only 35% of the offensive plays last year, Michael Robinson stood as one of the key figures within the Seahawks philosophy and run scheme. Sure, he will be missed, but that 65% can - and probably will - sustain the dangerous and aggressive ground game we've seen in the past two seasons. Remember, this is Darrell Bevell - the man who called multiple WR passes with Golden Tate last year - we're talking about. This is Tom Cable - the man who churned out 1000 yard rushers with even worse talent - we're working with. There will be no doubt that none of the candidates can replace Robinson as a dynamic lead blocker, but then again, those players are rare and brief. If anything, the Seahawks will be (and perhaps already have been) prepared to line up in a formation without him come Sunday, even if it will be done unconventionally or creatively. Whether or not this concept will translate to success however, well, we'll see pretty soon.

  • Expect to see a lot more read-option plays. One of the most intriguing and effective concepts regarding RO is that the "give" part of the play translates into another blocker on the field. Every time that Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch effectively holds the ball on the give one defensive player will be frozen - and in turn, cuts himself off from the play when the decision is actually made. Adding on to the fact that our quarterback is an actual running threat (unlike, say Jay Cutler) gives more credibility to the "give" and churns out a more effective and imaginary block.

    Bevell once reiterated that the Seahawks only run read-option as 10% of their playbook, but I believe that's only true in writing (and football vocabulary). Read-option is also perhaps one of the best and most effective play-action setups, especially because it freezes a dangerous, oncoming pass rusher on his steps. Without Robinson's pass blocking skills, it's definitely one of the safer bets than putting out Christine Michael or Derrick Coleman.

  • Back in 2011 when Bevell was first hired there was a lot of circulation with regards to 2TE sets. Obviously the injury to John Carlson made things fall apart, but there were numerous times when Zach Miller or Anthony McCoy were used as H-Backs instead of traditional tight ends. This meant that either one of them would be motioned into a fullback type and crack block on the last guy on the line. As you can see here, it often worked to great effect:

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    ZBS guru Alex Gibbs once described that his FB should be more akin to "a guard that could catch", and as committed as the Seahawks are to the run, there should be no objections to a more diverse and versatile offense. Using two tight end formations puts the defense in a jam too, and it spreads out the front seven in order to get an equal amount of coverage between the two sides, forcing the interior holes to be wider with bigger splits. (Editor's Note: With only two TEs on the official roster this afternoon, expect the Seahawks to swing for a third TE via waiver or trades, or perhaps even use Ware/Coleman as the H-Back)

  • Speaking of wide, I believe that Wide Zone will make its long awaited return to the Seahawks Zone Blocking now that the team is strictly without a fullback. If you recall, ZBS separates its plays into two different types when broken down into layman's terms: Wide Zone, for runs outside of the tackle, and Tight Zone, for runs usually between the tackles. Tom Cable has a fondness for running tight zone most of the time, hence why you usually see Marshawn Lynch break tackles and attack/push the defense backwards rather than bounce himself into a tackle for a loss. It's the straightforward mantra to the zero-loss policy, and the closest the ZBS will come towards power running.

    With that said, the Seahawks do run wide zone; it's just not on par with their tight zone performance. Partially, this is due to personnel and skillset. Lynch's abilities are best when he's upfield, so to put him out on a pitch play will limit his effectiveness. However, wide zone requires a lot of stretch on the offensive line, meaning that the players must be effective enough to cross the defender and get the block on the edge. I haven't seen enough confidence with either ones or twos to believe that wide zone will be a consistent success, but then again, good things have happened before.

  • A minor note, but cutbacks will be especially important now that Robinson is gone as a lead blocker. The fullback job is to oftenly punches a hole for his running back to go through amidst large sloths of players, and Robinson has done a spectacular job of that here. In any ordinary circumstances where the new FB hesitates or there isn't a pair of "eyes" that Lynch can trust on, bouncing back to the opposite side will be vital.

  • Finally, you could just have Russell WIlson pass the ball and go PA all day. Seriously, if you combine everything above, Wilson should have no trouble finding open targets.
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