The position of fullback has become virtually extinct in the modern day NFL. The current offensive trend focuses on the zone-read offense, which utilizes a quarterback that can run and pass efficiently, a strong running game and some creative ball handling. The Washington Redskins’ 2012 success was predicated on their utilization of the zone read by its main components, quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris.
The success of the zone-read offense eliminates the need for a fullback. It focuses on the skills of the halfback, who is usually the featured back in the offense. The zone read also focuses on the quarterback’s running ability. While the fullback will carry the ball occasionally, he usually serves as a lead blocker when the halfback carries the ball. This type of slow, plodding offense is not indicative of the modern day NFL.
However, the Redskins have a very solid fullback in Darrel Young. Morris and Griffin III get most of the credit for Washington’s top-ranked running game in 2012, as they should. In addition, Young must get some credit for being an efficient lead blocker for Morris, who didn’t earn his 1,613 rushing yards while running in the zone read formation alone.
The NFL is also trending towards occasionally using two tight ends. In 2013, the Redskins hope that rookie tight end Jordan Reed will complement starter Fred Davis in two tight end sets. What makes Washington so potent on offense is that they don’t need to employ a two tight-end set exclusively. Young has proven proficient as a pass receiver out of the backfield to the point where Washington can employ the traditional single tight end set. Although rarely utilized on offense, Young recorded eight receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. He also averaged almost 14 yards per reception out of the backfield, which is unheard of from a halfback, much less a fullback.
To suggest that Young is suddenly an offensive juggernaut is foolish. Simply put, the Redskins’ fortunes will not be dependent upon him in 2013. Opposing defenses will no doubt focus on Griffin III, Morris, and Davis. They will also focus on Washington’s wide receiving corps, who are efficient if not spectacular. There will be opportunities for Young to catch passes in the flat. At 5-foot-11, 251 pounds, Young has a low center of gravity that makes it difficult to bring down in the open field. That’ll give Griffin III another target to throw to, which proves that Washington can still utilize their fullback and still be potent on offense. If they continue to do so in 2013, the Redskins could remain a force to be reckoned with in the NFL.