Can Toby Gerhart be an Effective Fullback?


With the recent news that the Jacksonville Jaguars may be using running back Toby Gerhart as a fullback going forward, it is apparent there will be some shifting in the offensive backfield before 2015 occurs.

While Denard Robinson flashed last year and Gerhart stumbled, the Jaguars are still a ways away from mounting a competent ground attack in today’s NFL. Robinson offers an intriguing option but right now we have to wonder if he really is among the better half at his position. The Jaguars’ decision makers may have decided that it’s time to try and find out no matter what, having cut their last full back on the roster and with Gerhart slated to start taking snaps at the position.

Gerhart is a professional and he understands that he is here to help the Jaguars win football games, no matter what position that is. With a three-year, $10.5 million contract that was inked just last offseason, it would be nice to see him bring some production to the offense and not just lead block. But, if it’s what the Jaguars need, then expect Toby Gerhart to deliver. After all, he could be better suited to the role.

Using numbers from Pro Football Focus, we can put things into perspective. Last season, Gerhart stumbled to just 326 yards (49th among running backs), averaging 3.2 yards per carry (53rd among running backs) on 102 attempts. He was injured, but he never delivered on the production that the Jaguars coaching staff sold to the fans. He was a disappointment. As a receiver he posted respectable numbers, ranking 12th at his position in yards per reception (9.3) and second in average yards after the catch with 11.3.

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So when the news came that Gerhart was going

to be used in different ways from 2014

, it made sense to see him in some more unique or exotic situations. Instead, it’s looking more like we’ll see him at fullback.

So, how can he help?

As noted by’s Kevin Patra, “putting him into a H-back/fullback role can keep him on the field and potentially provide another dimension to the Jaguars’ offensive attack.” That’s good for the Jaguars, especially as guys like Denard Robinson, Bernard Pierce, and Storm Johnson will be likely be competing for touches with each other and maybe another addition that could come in the draft or post-draft. By shifting his position a bit, the Jaguars can keep Gerhart on the field when they want something a bit more dynamic. It’s important to know that Will Ta’ufo’ou, who was the team’s primary fullback last season, only saw a total of 230 snaps in 2014. For Gerhart to be a dynamic part of the offense the team may have to up the number of snaps they take with a fullback on the field.

If the Jags do decide to keep in a more traditional fullback role (or if he fizzles out as that extra dimension on offense), he will have to be an excellent blocker. Pro Football Focus didn’t grade Gerhart well on his blocking ability in 2014, ranking him 41st among running backs with at least 25% of snaps and third on the Jags roster. With no grades in run blocking, bringing in Gerhart will be a bit of gamble for the Jaguars coaching staff.

Right now, things look a little shady for the running back. Toby Gerhart disappointed as a workhorse, lost his job to a young, unproven open space runner, and is now expected to step in and be a fullback that the team needs. It comes with limited play counts and he brings limited run blocking experience to the role. Right now, the fullback position is really up in the air.

Personally, I would love to see Gerhart get a chance to redeem himself in 2015 and carry the load for part of the season. He needs to earn those reps, of course, but I think he could come in and still prove to be an effective ball carrier. It would be a shame to see him relegated simply to the role of lead blocker (no matter how important that role is) and it would be a shame to see the Jaguars’ initial investment lose so much value so quickly.

Next: Is Denard Robinson a Top-32 Running Back?

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