Reid: Birds need a FB – Who’s it going to be?
Think the Eagles don’t need a fullback?
This off-season, incumbent Stanley Havili and newcomer Emil Igwenagu have been battling to make the team as a fullback – a position many thought the team could do without.
Andy Reid isn’t one of those people.
“You need a fullback, yeah,” Reid said after Thursday morning’s walk-through. “In our offense, yeah, you need a fullback.”
It’s a peculiar position with the Eagles, fullback. It’s a position that was once used quite heavily in the days of Leonard Weaver but became an afterthought the last two years with Owen Schmitt.
Schmitt ran just four times in two years with the Eagles for six yards. He did catch 22 passes as an Eagle but 19 of those came in 2010. Last season, Schmitt played in every game for the Eagles but, according to ProFootballFocus, was in for just 15.8 percent of offensive snaps, down from 33 percent the year before.
“Traditionally, when Leonard [Weaver] was here, they used the fullback a lot in two-back sets to get Shady [LeSean McCoy] out and keep different defenses out there,” Havili said. “Last couple of years with Owen here, they didn’t utilize the fullback that much. Hopefully, they bring in back to where they’re using [the fullback] a lot.”
While the Eagles haven’t been using the fullback position much over the past few years, players on the team said they still need one.
“Fullback’s an integral part of our offense,” said tight end Brent Celek, who has been with the team since 2007. “We need one and we use them. It’s going to be a battle between those guys.”
Havili appears to be ahead in that battle. He spent the entire 2011 season on the practice squad, learning the offense from Schmitt. He was a seventh-rounder in 2011. He played in 52 games (48 starts) at USC, where as a fullback, he had 1,290 receiving yards and 509 rushing yards with 15 total touchdowns.
“I think I have shown them that I can block and that I’m aggressive and my pass protection is a lot better than it was last year,” Havili said, “that I can pick up blitzes. I can be used in this offense.”
He admitted that not playing last season and being on the practice squad was a “humbling” experience. Havili would also like the Eagles to use the fullback more this season and said his skill set is very similar to former Eagle Weaver’s.
Weaver was a major part of the Eagles’ offense in 2009. He had 70 rushing attempts for 323 yards and two touchdowns and also caught 15 passes, while playing in 45.2 percent of the offensive snaps.
“Leonard is a different type of player,” Celek said. “He got the ball a lot when he was in Seattle. In short yardage situations, we’d hand him the ball. Not saying these guys can’t turn into that, but that’s what he turned into for us.”
Havili thinks he has that type of rushing ability too but realizes it’s his contributions on special teams that might win him the job. He is on the kickoff, kick return, punt and punt return units, which is important.
“That player has to play on special teams and be a factor there,” Reid said.
Igwenagu is a rookie undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts. In college, he was extremely versatile, playing fullback, running back, tight end and even linebacker. The Eagles lined him up at tight end several times during training camp.
But Havili said that while Igwenagu is versatile by playing tight end, he’s versatile because he’s a solid running back. “It’s just two different sides,” he said.
“I think being able to play more than one position is definitely a good thing as well as special teams,” Igwenagu said. “I think that can help anybody.”
Havili is the first-team fullback as the returning player but Igwenagu said that hasn’t changed his approach to trying to make the Eagles.
“I can’t worry about the specifics about who’s who and what’s going on with the position as a whole,” he said. “I just come here to play football.”
Schmitt was a free agent and wasn’t re-signed this off-season. Instead, the former fifth-round pick was signed by the Raiders after two seasons with the Eagles.
“I was surprised,” Havili said of the Eagles decision to let Schmitt go, “but I took it as I did well this off-season and [well enough] last season to not bring him back.”E-mail Dave Zangaro at firstname.lastname@example.org