By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots continue to re-tool the offense during the free agency period and have been paying a lot of attention to the Fullback position. They recently signed Cowboys free agent FB Tony Fiametta as well as FB/LB Spencer Larson.
Without having a true FB on the roster since Heath Evans left for New Orleans in 2008, they used Sammy Morris in that role a bit and have used an extra tight end before bringing in Lousaka Polite last season before jettisoning him yesterday. So does this mean the Patriots are going to go with more two back sets on offense?
Not necessarily, they may line up in short yardage situations and give the FBs some carries there to ease up the burden on youngsters Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. And the diminutive Danny Woodhead is not a real short yardage guy, so that makes sense from that end.
But the real reason may be in pass protection, with Kevin Faulk probably going to retire this season, the Patriots best pass blocker in the backfield is going away. Look no farther than Buffalo who upgraded their pass rush with Mario Williams. And no one will benefit more by having Williams on one side than Mark Anderson who notched 12.5 sacks with the Patriots last season. Buffalo now goes from a poor pass rush team to an excellent one. Miami and the Jets are also looking to upgrade their pass rushers.
The Patriots offense under Josh McDaniels, has always featured a FB, now with some competition there, the Patriots under Bill Belichick, as always, are a step ahead of the game and are preparing to have players who can stay in and block and if necessary catch the ball out of the backfield. Neither Ridley nor Vereen (in limited action) stood as pass blockers. Woodhead is too small to effectively do it, and it takes the 3rd TE out of the equation while keeping a FB in the backfield to better protect QB Tom Brady. They won’t be taking a lot of carries away from the other three backs but offering a change of pace guy and a versatile one who can block or slip outside and catch the ball will make the offense even more difficult to stop.
Stay tuned to Patriots 4th & 2 podcast as we’ll be keeping up with all the moves in free agency as well as a special Wednesday, March 28 show with Mike Felger from CCSNE on the “Cap is Crap, or Is It?” We’ll also be broadcasting some special NFL Draft episodes coming with Damien Jarrett and Derek Havens.
Stay informed on all the moves on Free Agency and the Draft by checking out all of our talented writers on PatsFans.com, as well as some great stat pages by Ian Logue.
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