As offseason workouts and OTAs move along, more information is coming out about the Washington Redskins roster. And right now, it seems possible that they could keep a fullback for the first time since 2015.
Under Jay Gruden‘s watch, the role of the fullback in the Washington Redskins offense has been virtually non-existent. When Gruden came into the fold as the head coach in 2014, he had a quality blocker on his roster in Darrel Young. The former Villanova product had been with the team since 2009 and had developed into one of the best fullbacks in the league. However, Gruden’s offense didn’t really emphasize the fullback role, and the team let Young walk after the 2015 season. And since then, they haven’t really utilized a fullback.
For the better part of two seasons, the Redskins have operated without a true fullback on the roster. They instead opted to primarily use Niles Paul as an H-back type hybrid who played tight end and occasionally lined up at fullback. Paul was a good fit in this role, as he was a solid blocker. Still, he wasn’t as strong or effective in goal line situations as Young was. And that did hurt the Redskins at times.
When Paul went down last season, the Redskins had no other option at fullback. They gave a handful of snaps to rush linebacker Ryan Anderson throughout the year, but that was never going to be a long-term solution. And in fact, that was more motivated by the boatload of injuries suffered by the team.
After not having a quality lead blocker last season, Gruden appears to have realized the importance of carrying a fullback. And per ESPN’s John Keim, it’s possible that the team will keep one for the 2018 season.
The name Keim mentioned, Elijah Wellman, could be an intriguing option to make the Redskins final roster. The West Virginia product was a very athletic high school player, but he served almost exclusively as a fullback/tight end hybrid in college. And that would be his role for the NFL as well.
Wellman is a very big, strong H-back who could be the ideal replacement for Paul. He is an inch taller than the former Nebraska product, but he is a full 15 pounds heavier than him. This could allow him to serve as a battering ram in front of Derrius Guice and company as the team looks to improve their blocking. In short, Wellman seems like a good fit for that role.
If the Redskins do keep a fullback, Wellman would certainly be the favorite. That said, it’s unknown what the odds of them doing that would be. While Gruden seems to be more interested in adding a quality fullback-type player this year, it would have to come at the expense of another position on the roster. Given that quality fullbacks are usually available through free agency, Wellman might fall victim to a roster crunch, especially given the amount of depth and talent on this team.
What Wellman needs to make the roster is for the Redskins to carry less on the defensive line than anticipated and less in the receiving and running backs corps to have a realistic chance. If Wellman can prove that he’s a very solid blocker though, that may go a long way to earning him the spot as the fullback. It would certainly help mitigate any concern that could arise if injuries take a toll on the offensive line again, as Wellman could assist in blocking behind the replacements.
For now, keep an eye on Wellman to see how he performs and what coaches are saying about him. Before, it seemed like he had no chance to make the roster solely because he was a fullback. But now, he’s at least got a fighting chance to make the 53-man roster and should be a shoo-in for the practice squad if he impresses the coaching staff enough.