The Washington Redskins almost never rostered a fullback under Jay Gruden’s watch. That may change with Ron Rivera in charge.
Over the course of the Jay Gruden era in Washington, the team almost never rostered a fullback. Sure, there were some offseason additions to the 90-man roster who were capable of serving as fullbacks or H-backs. But when it came time to pare the roster to 53 men, the Redskins almost never kept a fullback after Darrel Young’s contract expired following the 2015 season.
Instead, the team would opt to use tight ends in the backfield to assist with blocks when they ran from the I-formation. And sometimes, Ryan Anderson would even line up in the backfield down by the goal-line as he attempted to make an impact as a blocker.
When Gruden was fired early in the season, Bill Callahan elected to bring fullback Mike Burton onto the roster as the ‘Skins shifted to a ground-dominant attack. Burton didn’t see a lot of action, but his presence at least signified that the Redskins would consider keeping a fullback moving forward.
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And under Ron Rivera, it seems likely that the team will keep one around.
Over the course of his nine years with the Carolina Panthers, Rivera always had a fullback on the roster. In 2011, he claimed Jerome Felton off waivers from the Detroit Lions to serve in that role. Then, the team invested in Mike Tolbert to serve as a running back/fullback hybrid. Tolbert would spend five years with the Panthers making three Pro Bowls and twice earning first-team All-Pro nods.
After Tolbert’s departure in 2017, the Panthers spent a sixth-round pick on Alex Armah. The West Georgia product has spent the past three seasons occupying that role and ensured that no matter what, Rivera always had a fullback on his roster.
Given Rivera’s tendency to roster a fullback, it would be a surprise to see the Redskins not pick one up this offseason. They may opt to retain Burton but could also consider Anthony Sherman, Andy Janovich, and C.J. Ham on the free-agent market. Given the lacking demand for fullbacks, the team should be able to find one if they do want one.
Adding a fullback to the fold would be smart. This writer happens to be a big fan of the fullback position and if the Redskins want to make like a little easier on Dwayne Haskins, they’ll need to have a strong running game. A fullback could help improve the blocking and give the team more options of how to set up their run game for success. And at the goal line, having another ball carrier certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Rivera’s tendencies suggest that the Redskins will keep a fullback in 2020. We’ll see if he ends up following that or changes up his strategy in his first year in Washington.