The fullback position is one spot in the NFL that some teams feel the need is not imperative. The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, realize the importance of the position. Head coach Andy Reid said so himself on Thursday when he proclaimed “You need a fullback, yeah. In our offense, yeah, you need a fullback.” While he didn’t necessarily elaborate on why the position is important, he obviously made the point he wanted.
Fullback has been an area filled with peaks and valleys for the Eagles. They have gone from relying heavily upon the position to all but discounting it shortly thereafter. In my opinion, that has more to do with the personnel Philadelphia had at its disposal than the importance they placed on the position. Leonard Weaver was utilized heavily in his days as the Philly fullback, while Owen Schmitt was basically nonexistent.
With the likes of LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek, both of whom are excellent offensive weapons, the significance of the fullback becomes even greater in Philadelphia. The presence of an extra blocker allows Celek and McCoy the opportunity to get out and run routes, causing chaos for opposing defenses. Without a quality fullback, one of those weapons is often going to be negated, as they will be forced to block.
While neither Stanley Havili or Emil Igwenagu are likely to get the amount of carries that Weaver received in 2009 (70 rushes for 323 yards and 2 touchdowns), if one of them can demonstrate they are relatively effective as a playmaker, it will open up the offense even more. The possibility that the fullback will get the ball only gives the defense something else to think about.
Havili more closely resembles Weaver and has the experience of spending all of last year on the practice squad. In his USC career, Havili racked up 1,290 yards receiving and 509 rushing. He is currently at the top of the depth chart and is running with the first team.
Igwenagu is an undrafted rookie out of Massachusetts, where he played all over the field, including fullback, running back, tight end and linebacker.
The decision is going to be an interesting one for Philadelphia, as Havili has the ability to contribute on special teams, but Igwenagu has more versatility. Whoever comes out on top should expect to be called upon occasionally on offense, but their other attributes will be what gets them the job.