My goal of this piece is to show that at this point in time I feel that Spencer Ware is not ready to be a starting fullback in the NFL. With roster cuts approaching, there is going to have to be a decision what to do at that position. At this point in time, I don't feel like Ware is the answer for that spot. Michael Robinson vs Spencer Ware has been perhaps the most contentious debate amongst 12s since the draft and this is all before anyone has ever seen Ware actually play FB. I thought that it would be cool to provide some visual examples of Ware at FB, provide my analysis, and allow everyone to draw their own conclusions on what the Seahawks should do at FB based on a variety of factors.
On the bubble players know that the more they can do, the better chance they have to make an NFL team. These are the players that play multiple positions and give maximum effort on special teams. They are the individuals who are trying to find their role on a team full of players better than them. The Seahawks have one of these individuals in Spencer Ware.
When Ware was drafted in the 6th round of the 2013 draft, a lot of people thought, "Why would the Seahawks spend a pick on a RB, despite having Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, and Christine Michael already on the roster?" Then Pete Carroll came out and explained to everyone that he envisioned Ware as a future hybrid RB/FB in the NFL which provided clarity on the decision and increased Ware’s chances of making the team. As stated above, the more that a player can do, the better chance they have of making the 53.
With the ability to play both RB and FB, Ware is being developed to be the next Mike Tolbert and Michael Robinson has someone competing for his starting position. After watching Ware play FB during Saturday’s game, if Robinson loses his job, it will not be because Ware is a better FB than him but because he is a cheaper alternative for a highly paid player. The NFL is a business after all, so it is not illogical for a player to get fired if their employer thinks they are overpaid.
Saturday’s game provided a deeper look into the Ware vs. Robinson battle because the start of the 2nd half provided 12s with never before seen footage – Ware at FB for the 1st time! At this point of the game, the Seahawks had a healthy 33 – 10 on the Broncos and were set to run a heavy dosage of running plays at them to close out the game. In the first play of the half, the Seahawks were in "21" personnel – 1 RB, 1 FB, 1 TE, 2 WRs – and ran a zone run to the left in which Ware was the lead blocker. The result of the lead blocking attempt was that Ware was put on his back by UDFA LB, Lerentree McCray.
Ware’s first play from FB reminds me of my first day of full pads as a freshman in high school. I had never tackled anybody in my life and had to tackle the ball carrier – who had played football as long as he had been walking. I ran at him fully up right with hesitancy and he ran at me low to the ground with pure aggression. As you can imagine, I ended up on my back while he ran through me into the end zone. Learning curves suck.
Ware fell victim to the learning curve on this play. In his first play from FB, Ware may have been nervous and unsure which can all lead to hesitancy. McCray has probably been taking on FBs as lead blockers since he could walk so this was a routine play for him. Ware came at McCray upright with hesitancy and McCray came at Ware low with aggression which resulted in Ware being sat down.
It appears that Ware is not going to be one of those guys that has never played FB before and is good from day one. This is not uncommon; it took Robinson awhile to learn how to make the conversion from QB to FB. I'd say it's safe to say it is going to take Ware more than a training camp and a preseason to learn how to lead block. He needs time to add some more pounds and develop his technique to routinely annihilate defensive players.
Additionally, Ware not only has to develop the physical parts of his game but the mental aspects as well. RBs are often taught to run to daylight and FBs are taught to block. In the following play, Ware mixes them up and blocks daylight.
They say, "The best way to develop a new skill is to dive head first into the middle of it." That is what Ware did on this play so at least he is trying. To his credit, this was actually the only time Ware didn’t hit somebody in his four plays as a lead blocker but it shows that Ware has some work to do when there clearly isn’t a target to hit. As a RB, improvisation comes natural to Ware when he has the ball in his hands but when it comes to him as a blocker, "the what to do when things do go as planned" part of his game still needs to be developed. This will all come in time with more repetitions from the position.
These two plays are the clearest illustrations from the game tape that Ware still leaves much to be desired as a lead blocker. Unless Ware makes exponential improvements in the following two games, at this point in time, Ware is not ready to be a starting NFL FB. He doesn’t have the technique, size or experience to move people who have been shedding lead blocks for 15+ years. This is not to say that he won’t ever become a starting caliber FB because he is aggressive, has good vision, understands blocking concepts and has a thick build. He may very well develop into the next Mike Tolbert, Bruce Miller, or whoever someday but it doesn’t look like that day is going to happen before the season starts.
On a more positive note, Ware does look pretty good as a running back. He has displayed toughness, agility, pass protection and good hands throughout these past two games so he certainly looks like a player that belongs in the NFL. He doesn’t look like a player that will make it to the practice squad so if the Seahawks were to cut him, he will most likely end up being some other team’s 3rd string or maybe even someone’s 2nd string RB. If the Seahawks do decide to keep him, Ware will most likely receive the majority of his PT as a RB and on special teams, rather than at FB.
With that said, if Ware is not good enough to be the Seahawks starting FB, where does this leave Robinson?
Here are some questions I have about the situation:
Is his roster spot secure because the Seahawks were unable to find a cheaper alternative? Do the Seahawks cut him anyway in the name of rollover money? Could they approach him about a pay cut? If they did cut him would someone be willing to pay him more than the Seahawks would? Does anyone besides the 49ers actually still play with a FB? Do he and Ware both make the team?
All these questions will be answered in the following weeks. Until then, Ware still has two preseason games to become a better blocker, unseat Michael Robinson as the starter, and shake me off as one of the haters.
Big up to Danny for the GIFs!