Jeremy Ruckert, the FB?
🌟 Good morning!
Happy reporting day to one and all. Today signifies the start of the football season, at least it does to me.
Veterans will arrive at Florham park to join the rookies who checked in last Tuesday, we’ll start hearing from coach Saleh and the rest of the staff and we’ll have some camp battles to monitor.
❓❔ It was believed that Kendall Lamm worked out for the Jets yesterday. However, clarification later in the day revealed that the former Titans offensive lineman was working out with the Giants and not the Jets. It’s still my understanding that Reiff is the preferred option for the Jets in relation to a veteran offensive lineman signing.
🏆 NFL.com released their list outlining the top 10 candidates who they back to win Offensive Rookie of the year, and the Jets have not one but two players listed in the top five. Jets receiver Garrett Wilson came in at number 4: “Wilson is a real contender for this award, even though he could lose votes to my top candidate right now, Jets teammate Breece Hall. Wilson has an opportunity to establish himself as QB Zach Wilson’s new best friend on passing downs. He can run, is able to play all three receiver positions and has rare talent to elevate and clamp onto contested catches with powerful hands. If his quarterback can play with better consistency and focus, Wilson should be a strong competitor for OROY.”
Wilson was followed by Breece Hall who was picked as the #1 candidate: “Hall is my personal favorite to win this award because of his talent and the situation he inherits with the Jets. Sure, Hall will have to hand some snaps over to Michael Carter, but keep in mind that one of the reasons Hall was considered the top running back in the draft was his exciting ability to star on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield. The Jets’ offensive line is in a position to take a noticeable step forward, and Hall should benefit from it. His size, juice, versatility, and -- perhaps most importantly -- opportunity should make him the favorite for this award.”
🤔 Bart Scott had Tyreek Hill on the show yesterday and asked him the determining factor in choosing the Dolphins over the Jets. Hill who looked to be rocking some skiing glasses in that Miami heat replied: ‘You know Zach Wilson is a dawg but I’d rather play with the most accurate QB in the #NFL’ - So apparent he's getting traded to the Bengals or Packers and Tua certainly isn't the most accurate QB in the league.
Could Ruckert play fullback?
This is a question I’ve been asked numerous times over the last week or two, and it seems as though it’s beginning to gain some traction, so I thought I’d take a look at the possibility of Ruckert playing fullback and what that would mean for the construction of the roster.
First of all, let’s just talk about the body type. At the combine, Ruckert measured in at 6’5 and 252lbs. The weight is pretty much spot on where you’d want a fullback to be, but the height is a little more than you’d ideally see from the position. Last year there were no listed fullbacks over 6’3 and the vast majority of fullbacks were 6’2 or under. Would that cause an issue with leverage? Personally, I don’t think so, but it’s hard to say without seeing it.
63 snaps over four years, that’s how many times Ruckert lined up in the backfield for the Buckeyes during his college career, so does he have some experience there? Absolutely. Is it a significant enough sample size to draw conclusions from? Absolutely not.
So we’ve already seen that he doesn’t exactly have the prototypical body and he doesn’t have a ton of experience there, but does his game suit the position? First of all we need to just understand what you ask of your fullback. He’s mainly a pass blocker, lead blocker, sometimes a ball carrier, and sometimes a pass catcher.
Let’s tick off the easy one first and that’s the pass-catching, as a natural TE and someone who holds a 3.6% drop rate over his entire career at Ohio State having his ability out of the backfield would be a + for LaFleur, and his play calling. It would also cause the defense some headaches knowing that we have a legitimate option coming out of the backfield, and they would have to account for him on every single play.
Next, we’ll go to the run-blocking. Saleh called him a “bulldog” in the run game, he was graded at 68.3 for run-blocking by PFF this year, 70.9 the year before, and 70.3 the year before that. When I was writing my deep dive report on Ruckert and watching game tape, I pulled out two different blocking variations to pinpoint:
Move Blocking - Who doesn’t love a player who blocks with speed and physicality, here he absolutely pancakes the linebacker trying to come up and make a tackle opening up a lane for his running back. This is 250lbs coming at you with purpose, not fun to deal with.
Sealing + Second level - One thing I noticed when looking at Ruckert was his level of comfort and feel for zone blocking. Here he gives a little elbow to David Ojabo before moving on and taking a second-level player out of the game to open up a huge hole for his RB to gallop through.
Now the move blocking clip certainly looks like a full back to me, identify, keep your legs churning and move the player out of the designed run gap. That may be the single most important factor for an NFL fullback, this kind of blocking with Breece Hall behind it…who wouldn’t be excited to see that.
Finally, we have pass-blocking. Probably the weakest area for Jeremy in terms of his PFF grades and something I didn’t see a lot of when watching tape, mainly because on pass plays he was running patterns. He only had 136 pass-blocking snaps over four years at Ohio State and allowed 2 sacks and 6 pressures with a pass-blocking efficiency of 96.6…not ideal, but then improvement comes with repetition and experience.
If someone asked me if Ruckert’s game was suited to the full-back position, I would respond with an absolutely. His move blocking alone paired with his pass-catching ability would make him one of the more dangerous players in the league from the position. One thing to note is that he never had a rushing attempt at Ohio, so either that’s a skill he’d need to learn for the odd handoff to keep defenses honest, or the Jets just wouldn’t use him in that way.
What this does for the Jets
The Jets currently have two fullbacks on the roster in Nick Bawden and converted tight-end Trevon Wesco, neither really excite you as prospects heading into the season. Bawden is a very good blocker but offers almost nothing in the receiving game and Wesco is an average blocker and also doesn’t offer a lot in the receiving game.
The Jets signed two tight-ends who will dominate the majority of snaps this year in Tyler Conklin and CJ Uzomah. They also have second-year player Kenny Yeboah who they like and who performed well on special teams last season and converted wide receiver and one of the stars of the off-season workouts Lawrence Cager. It’s a packed room.
A lot of people are predicting that the Jets will carry three tight ends and a full-bac into the season, if the fullback is also a tight end, that would allow the Jets to keep one of Yeboah or Cager. If they want to carry Bawden or Wesco the reality is both Yeboah and Cager miss out, and if you’re betting on the upside then you likely want to keep one of those guys over someone like Bawden
The more I think about this idea the more I like it. If Ruckert stays as an out-and-out tight end then his snaps will be limited in 2021 barring injury. If he was to split his time between fullback and tight-end then that would allow the Jets some roster flexibility, it would get Ruckert on the field more and it would utilize one of his key skills which is run-blocking. Sign me up for this idea.
Jets DC Jeff Ulbrich gave a really good interview to the official Jets website where he covered the rotation policy that came under fire earlier this off-season. There were some really interesting quotes including "We absolutely like it, we are a different defense and it's going to be a different year," Ulbrich told team reporter Eric Allen on the latest edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "I take the heat because we rotate so much. But I really believe from coaching and playing -- and I played the game for 10 years -- to play the style we want, the strain and toughness and ability, and for 'All Gas, No Break' to come to life in every way, rotation is necessary. At times last season, we didn't have the depth. We have that now. It's going to be really exciting to see that come to life. We want the guys to play with absolutely their hair on fire. They need to know that they can play 4-5 plays, they can come out and there's not a big drop off."
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