Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s fullbacks were often the featured ball carrier of a football team. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the fullback became more of a third guard than anything. But in the West Coast Offense, they got and still get opportunities to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Then at the turn of the century, fullbacks became an endangered species. Freak athletes at 6’5” and above are migrating to the NFL from basketball nowadays. So teams are taking advantage of the mismatches they create in the passing game as tight ends. Zone-blocking has taken away the need for the fullback to lead running backs through the hole.
So NFL teams are starting to carry more tight ends on the roster and run more double-tight sets. Marcel Reece, emerged as a freak athlete of a fullback for the Oakland Raiders from 2010 to 2015. He was the Raiders only Pro Bowl player and the only one worth the price of admission from 2012 to 2014. Then after his last Pro Bowl year in 2015, the Raiders replaced him with Jamize Olawale.
Olawale is more of a blocker than Reece was but has good hands, speed and athleticism. He showed it with big plays when he got the opportunity in 2016, With only 14 targets, Olawale caught 12 of them for a whopping 19-yard average. I didn’t think Bill Musgrave used him as a receiver enough then with Todd Downing as OC Olawale saw even less time.
Downing didn’t play him much, opting to go with double-tights featuring Jared Cook and Lee Smith. But as old sheriff Jon Gruden returns to town, things will be changing.
“Do we have a fullback?” Gruden asked during his introductory press conference.
Remember, he had Jon Ritchie in his first stint in Oakland and Mike Alstott for five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Spider-2 Y banana is a play Gruden has made famous as a coach and broadcaster. And yes, the fullback is the primary receiver on the play so Gruden must have a plan for an athletic fullback like Olawale.