The Denver Broncos are re-installing the fullback position into their offense under Gary Kubiak, and while fullbacks are almost going ‘extinct’ in today’s game, the position offers a new versatility and flexibility that basically gives your team another tight end on the field at all times.
The Broncos used to use a lead blocking fullback in the Mike Shanahan era, and quickly phased it out after Josh McDaniels and Chris Gronkowski left the building, and Peyton Manning entered.
This year, there are only two real players to even look at when talking about the fullback position. They are James Casey and Joe Don Duncan.
Both players are tight ends by trade (actually, Casey used to be a wide receiver) but have the traits and required skills to be good in the fullback role. The way I see it, James Casey is going to be playing more tight end this year as well as fullback, which indicates to me the Broncos not only have high hopes for Duncan, they are going to be planning on him getting into the lineup early and often.
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With that said, I don’t know if there’s a true answer to the question of the title of this post, which is Who will win the Broncos’ fullback position battle?.
I don’t know if there is a winner, because I think both guys are going to eventually make the team, and both are going to play a hybrid fullback/tight end/h-back role.
There is film evidence that both players can also flex out and play receiver or play in the slot.
Having a fullback is something Peyton Manning is going to have to get used to, at least in terms of what he’s done with the Broncos. There have been very few times that Manning’s Broncos have used anyone at the position when it wasn’t a goal line formation or short-yardage situation, and even then, sometimes the Broncos would just throw a guy like Mitch Unrein out there.
Gone are those days, and now the Broncos will actually have an 11th player out there that poses a threat not only as a blocker, but as a runner, receiver, and decoy in the passing game (bootlegs, anyone?).
The ability of both Casey and Duncan after the catch makes them intriguing options at the fullback position, because the Broncos will be able to get them some looks out of Jon Gruden’s beloved Spider 2 Y Banana look where the fullback is the primary read in the flat.
One thing that many people seem to ask about in regards to the Broncos and the fullback position is whether or not Juwan Thompson will play it. At this point, that doesn’t seem likely, though Thompson is open to it.
Of course, the thought there is simply to get your best 11 players on the field at one time. Thompson is a bruising running back who excels on special teams and even played defense in college. He’s a good pass protector, so he must be able to handle lead blocking roles, right?
That’s the right idea, but the Broncos probably want someone with more of a tight end/h-back skill set playing fullback rather than a running back/special teams player that can also come in and hammer away.
Perhaps in short-yardage running situations, Thompson can take some snaps as a fullback and decoy on play-action runs with the success he had in that role last year, or just take the ball himself and hammer it in.
Either way, the competition at fullback doesn’t seem to be overly thick. The Broncos are confident that James Casey and Joe Don Duncan can give them what they want, and if they weren’t we’d have seen someone else brought in at this point, at least through a draft pick.