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Film Study: Fullback Fever

What kind of options do we have now with a true fullback in a Kubiak offense? We break it down.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After a thorough scouting report of our new fullback, and a fun breakdown by our Nebraska friends, MHR seems to have a bit of fullback fever! As they should, because now we get to see the Kubiak offense in full swing.

Rick Dennison mentioned that having Janovich on board really opens up their playbook.

"There is a whole set of plays that we can run with two backs that we didn't run very much of last years," Dennison said. "That just opens it up and gives us a little bit more for the defense to have to worry about.

"One extra blocker in there allows us to block another guy closer to the line of scrimmage. So eight-man boxes, we're able to deal with that. Plus, if we do that well then that will get them up in there and we can throw it over their heads."

So what exactly are those new plays that defenses have to worry about? I'm glad you asked!

Setting the stage

To take a look at how Kubiak and Dennison utilize the fullback in their offense we will have to go back in time to 2014 when both coaches were on the Raven's staff (OC and QB coach respectively). That year saw the Ravens rank 8th in the league in rushing yards and points per game, and 12th overall offensively.

The fullback that the Ravens had at the time was second-year 4th round draft selection, Kyle Juszczyk (henceforth to be referred to as Kyle J). Kyle is similar to Janovich in that they both have an interesting last name and are athletic FB/H-back type players. Janovich is stronger, while Kyle J is more athletic overall, running a 4.7 (compared to Janovich's 4.8) 40 yard dash and besting him in the long jump, 3-cone, and vertical. Janovich's are close enough though.

So let's dig in. I'll break down four plays from week 3 against Cleveland.

Play 1

The first play is a basic HB Iso play from a power scheme designed to get the FB one-on-one with a linebacker in the hole. Cleveland is in a 3-4 base look. This play is designed to go through the B-gap so the LT needs to seal off the OLB and the LG needs to seal the DE inside. C and RG will combo block the NT. This leaves the FB to take on the MLB in the hole when he flows down towards the play.

Like so.

It's looking pretty good so far. LG, Osemele is one of the best in the business (not looking forward to playing him in Oakland twice a year) and walked our boy Phil Taylor all the way into the center leaving a gaping hole in the B-gap. However, his LT counter-part is in the middle of getting jacked backwards by the OLB which will cause some problems in a minute.

The LT is completely beat at this point so the RB has to cut it up inside. Fortunately, the FB has stone-walled the MLB and Osemele has driven the DE so far out of the way that there is still some good running room and he picks up 9 yards.

Textbook block by the FB in the hole and had the LT not blown his assignment this could have gone for more.

Play 2

This play really demonstrated Dennison's comments about being able to handle loaded boxes. Excuse my terrible writing, but you can see 9 (almost 10) defenders in the box. No way you can run on this play right? No way you bust a 30 yard run (spoiler alert).

Ravens are in 21 personnel again in the offset I and are going to run a split zone play to the right.

The WR is going to come across the formation and block the backside, while they are going to leave the OLB (highlighted) unblocked. Now, add a fullback into the mix at the point of attack and you begin to even out the numbers game.

Here's where the other wrinkles of Kubiak's scheme come into play. This is at the hand-off point. The 10th defender is chasing the TE who has leaked out the backside, the OLB is frozen watching the QB for a play-fake rollout, completely unblocked. The interesting thing to note is Joe Haden (circled). He pauses to read the play when it starts and then makes a bee-line across the formation to stop Flacco from rolling out and hitting the TE.

So let's count. We started with 10 defenders (minus the FS who is Rahim Moore'ing it). Lost one to the TE, one went unblocked and stayed home for the rollout, and one chased the QB across the formation. That leaves the 7-on-7.

FB kicks out the OLB perfectly to create a crease and the RB is off to the races. If this is Todd Gurley or Adrian Peterson, they juke/hurdle/stiff arm the FS and score.

Play 3

Just when you think this guy is only there to block, they do this.

First of all, the formation itself is pretty cool as the WRs are pinched in allowing a ton of space on the edges for the backs to work. The route combos draw the corners further into the middle of the field. The MLB picks up the RB out of the backfield, but no one picks up the FB!

By the time the other MLB realizes what is happening, it is too late. The announcers indicated that it is typically the OLB who would have responsibility for the FB on a play like this. Former first round pick, Barkevious Mingo missed that memo apparently. Not much more analysis needed here. The dude is just wide open.

Play 4

This last play adds another wrinkle. This time Kyle J is lined up all the way outside and will motion into a TE position right before the snap.

This is a fake stretch run to the right. The whole left side of the line will fake blocks, and then turn upfield for a screen pass. The two WRs job is to just draw the secondary away from the play. The FS is already cheating over to the "playside".

This is the beauty of Kubiak's scheme. Look at the still above which is right before the hand-off. You can't tell if they are going to hand it off, keep it and rollout for a deep shot, or hit the TE on a screen. This is 2 seconds into the play and no one on the defense knows what's going to happen. Linebackers are peeking into the backfield, secondary is watching for run but also cautious of the WR running by them.

Once the play unfolds, you have 3 blockers in front of Kyle J, the secondary having coffee with the WRs 20 yards from the ball, and the rest of the defense taking a knitting class over on the right side of the play.

Kyle J puts that 4.7, 40 to good use and rumbles down the field with an escort.

So there you have it Broncos Country. Hopefully this gets you even more jazzed about our new offensive weapon.