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I’m a big believer in the power of a good fullback. I know that’s something kind of getting phased out of the game, what with the advent of the hybrid, pass-catching tight end dominating game plans across America, but I still think the fullback serves a valuable function in today’s game.
For some reason, I’ve always had a soft spot for the fullback. John L. Williams was one of the best I’d ever seen. A sort of hybrid fullback that was a good blocker as well as an elite pass-catcher. Then, for what seemed like forever, the Seahawks were blessed with Mack Strong, who was an absolute bulldozer, clearing lanes for Shaun Alexander on his way to a number of Pro Bowls and an MVP award in 2005. Now, we’ve got Michael Robinson, a non-traditional fullback who can do a little bit of everything.
Unless you’ve got someone like Barry Sanders, who can dance around long enough to create his own running lanes, I don’t think a rushing attack is ever well-served by NOT having a fullback. I just don’t see the upside. Yeah, you can bring in extra tight ends and whatnot, but having a fullback is like having a safety on defense: it’s the last line of defense before shit starts getting real.
Your first line of defense is, obviously, the offensive line. The five guys whose only job is to move people out of the way. They’re like the Marines. Tight ends and wide receivers, yeah they’ll block for you, but they really just provide a little extra security. And it’s not like they’re all that able to take on the big bodies the other team’s going to throw at you! Then, there’s the fullback. He’s like James Bond trying to protect the precious cargo: it’s up to him to be the last man between an open defender and the man with the ball. When all are working together – line, ends, backs – the running game can be a thing of beauty. And what makes the fullback so critical is the fact that he CAN take on those big bodies – D-Linemen and Linebackers – because he’s big & strong and because he gets a nice little running start out of the I-formation.
When you’re running without a fullback, you’re essentially relying on deception. You’re hoping to fool the other team into thinking you’re going to pass on that play. When you’re running WITH a fullback, that’s when you’re playing smashmouth football. That’s when you say, “Here, my best 11 guys against your best 11 guys. Try and stop us.”
Of course, Michael Robinson brings more than just a battering ram. You can sneak the ball with him just as you can with any fullback to get a crucial first down on third (or fourth) and inches. You can also trust him to catch the ball on a swing pass because the guy has moves. Michael Robinson isn’t just a big lump, he can run! When you’re talking about a guy who is versatile, you’re talking about Michael Robinson.
Probably where he makes his real bread and butter with this team – the reason why he has stuck around so long – has to do with his production on Special Teams. It seems like he’s always down the field making a big tackle on punts and kickoffs. When you’re able to be a fullback, a running back, a tight end, a blocker, AND a tackler, that’s when you know you have real value to a football team.
The struggles of the Seattle Seahawks are never more apparent than when Michael Robinson goes down with an injury. It seems like just about every facet of the game struggles in his absence. It’s why I’ve been saying for years that we need to lock him up to a long term deal. I don’t recall if that’s actually been done or not, but if it hasn’t, then it should be. Michael Robinson is more important than most people realize.