Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll likes to run smash mouth style football, and having a fullback has always been a big part of that. However, this year the need to have a fullback has taken a backseat due to injuries at running back and tight end so the roster spot was needed elsewhere.
This is where Luke Willson comes in.
He is now being used as an H-Back, or the de facto fullback when a lead blocker is needed out of the backfield. Willson is very athletic, mobile, and with his size should be a good fit for the role. I don’t know about everyone else, but I for one have always thought Willson has been an adequate blocker and assume that he’d fill this new role nicely.
To dive into Willson’s job as a blocking fullback or H-Back, I’ve gone back to the grading system devised last week while looking at the tape between the Seahawks and New York Jets in Week 4. Here’s another look at the system in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.
Field Gulls Grading System
For now the grading systems haven’t changed, and but I’ll continue to monitor and adjust as is appropriate.
Only the plays where Willson blocks as an H-Back or fullback were reviewed. His normal blocking duties as a tight end were not, as we are just looking to see if Carroll can do without a fullback in his offense.
On to the tape!
And now for the opposite of highlights.
Play 1: Christine Michael for 2 yards
Here Willson has good position and makes an initial hit leaning into the OLB, then he just bounces off him. Two things he did wrong: 1) He didn’t get his hands up on the defender to be able to control him and 2) He stopped his feet.
Play 2: C.J. Spiller draw for 13 yards
Motions right, delayed block up into the hole. Willson gets good initial block on the ILB and has him squared up and does enough to keep him out of the play. However, again he just uses his shoulder, doesn’t get his hands on the defenders pads, and stops his feet on contact.
Play 3: Michael for -1 yard
Not much Willson can do here with both Germain Ifedi and Jimmy Graham missing their blocks. Just take a look at his technique again, keeps leading with his shoulders not his hands. Hands should be out in front.
Play 4: Michael for 2 yards
Tough play for him here, as Ifedi’s missed block causes him to hesitate to try and help and can’t get back to his assignment. The guy who he was supposed to block is #58 who filled the hole and caused Michael to stretch the run outside
Play 6: Michael for 3 yards
Cool wrinkle in the running game that was called a couple times. Willson is lined up just off the line of scrimmage as the H-Back, he pulls and comes back across the formation to seal off the backside OLB. Not the best block but he gets the job done.
Play 8: Michael for -1 yard
Here again we see Willson lined up as the H-Back, then comes across the line to seal off the OLB. This play sums up Willson’s blocking in this game; He leads with his shoulder, stops his feet, and the defender knocks him to the ground.
With only a total of eight plays, it’s a terribly small sample to go by, and I don’t think it’s representative of Willson as a blocker as a whole, including when lined up as a TE on the line of scrimmage. However, the FG Grade of 38% seems to be pretty accurate for his performance against the Jets. He didn’t grade out better than 0.7 on the FGG scale and only had three 1.0’s on the KISS scale.
- Willson continually showed bad technique and does not seem to be a good blocker in space or on the move. He tries to block by hitting the defender, and then just stops his feet. Proper technique would be to square up (he turns and leads with his shoulder), hands out in front (hands targeting for the chest plate of the defender), and then keep your feet moving to drive the defender. He hits while turning his body angle with his hands down, making it easy for the defender to shed the block. When he stops his feet, it makes it easier for the defender to either push him back, or keep him where he’s at to plug the hole.
- Just going by this analysis and the previous look at Graham’s blocking, I would say that Graham is the better blocker out of the two, and certainly is more consistent in his technique. However, Willson’s blocking as an in-line TE hasn’t been looked at or considered in this comparison.
- Now that Graham is fully healthy and rookie Nick Vannett looks to debut after the bye week, I would not be surprised to see Brandon Williams cut and Will Tukuafu re-signed or some other FB. Willson was pretty underwhelming as a lead blocker coming out of the backfield. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them stand pat if Willson or another TE is used as an H-Back or full back for only eight plays a game. Roster spots are valuable and so is depth.
- Being that this is Willson’s fourth year now with the Hawks, it’s pretty surprising his technique is so off. One would think that line coach Tom Cable would have corrected this habit of his a couple years ago. Keep your eyes on it going forward, and let’s see if it continues or if it was just one bad game.