Chicago Sun-Times

22 days to Camp: Bears could look to keep only one fullback

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We'll get in one more positional breakdown before we switch gears from this analysis for a few days and get into some other material we hope you find interesting, including Four Down Territory on Friday. Up this morning are the fullbacks.

Projected starter: Jason McKie, 5-11, 247, 8th year, Temple


Jason Davis, 5-10, 242, 2nd year, Illinois
Will Ta'ufo'ou, 5-11, 247, Rookie, Cal

Projected depth chart


2009 salary cap numbers

Jason Davis $390,200
Jason McKie $995,000
Will Ta'ufo'ou $311,666

Number of fullbacks on 2008 roster at start of the season: 1

Projected number of fullbacks on 2009 roster at start of the season: 1

The skinny: The Bears got a pretty good look at another player in Davis when a quad muscle injury knocked McKie out after 11 games. McKie has been a pretty durable performer appearing in 15 or more games in three of the last five seasons. A torn pectoral muscle kept him out for half of the year in 2005. He's a dependable player who has become a bit of a threat in the red zone, rushing for two touchdowns last season and catching another pass for a score to give him seven touchdowns over the last three seasons. Davis proved to be a nice find when he joined the practice squad at the start of the season and the Bears were lucky to get him back after the brief mid-season stint he had in Oakland. He's got the talent to play in the league but is in a numbers crunch after tight end Michael Gaines was signed. The Bears talked with Gaines about using him as an H-back on occasion and lining him up in the backfield and that kind of versatility could put the squeeze on Davis and lead the Bears to keep just one fullback on the 53-man roster as they did at the start of last season. Gaines could get them through a game in an emergency if something happened to McKie. Of course, second year tight end Kellen Davis also figures into the equation. If the Bears only keep three tight ends, it increases the chance that an extra running back or fullback make the roster. Kellen Davis has draft status, though, and Jason Davis does not. Given the addition of Jay Cutler at quarterback and the trend last season with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and the fullback position, we're also inclined to believe that only one fullback will make the roster. The Bears relied less on the fullback in 2008, with playing time dropping to 34.88 percent of the plays down from 41.15 percent in 2007. The drop was due in large part to the expansion of double tight end formations. Ta'ufo'ou was an interesting guy going into the draft but his stock dipped and he would up being signed as an undrafted free agent. He might not be the listed height of 5-11 and faces a real uphill battle to crack the roster.

The upside: McKie paves the way in an encore season for running back Matt Forte and enjoys a little success out of the backfield as a safety valve receiver while playing in 16 games for just the second time in his career.

The downside: Turner falls in love with McKie in short yardage situations as he has in the past and the calls blow up in his face. More seriously, injuries happen. It's a difficult position to keep healthy.

On the hot seat: McKie. Someone has to be on the hot seat, right? Might as well be the guy projected to make the roster. He's signed through 2011 and needs to have a good season for job security but we can write that about nearly everyone.

Final thought: If the Bears go with just one fullback there's almost certain to be one on the practice squad. Keep an eye on Ta'ufo'ou. Maybe he will carve out a niche for himself.

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Sorry Lance Louis is waiting for a jersey number to open up when some other player is released. Per the rules of the NFL:

Numbers 20 to 49 are worn by running backs, tight ends
(40-49, when an 80-89 number is unavailable), cornerbacks and

Numbers 80 to 89 are worn by wide receivers and tight ends.

A former TE playing pulling guard with that speed and hands ... Please! Matt Forte will run like mad on sweeps with Louis leading the way.

One real bummer in this situation is that Jason Davis and Matt Forte are best friends off the field. It would be a chemistry knock if Jason Davis doesn't stick around.

Keep Jason Davis. Let Kellen "Does nothing" Davis go.

All I know is this entire article should have been focused on the idiotic FB runs called by Turner all too often last season. It's incredible how Turner kept calling the play when it NEVER worked. I nearly exploded every time he did it. To me, it's one of the dumbest plays in the NFL. There are so many better ways to pick up a yard then a quick hit to the bumbling FB who gets a head start of a whole two steps before running into a wall and picking up 0 to a half-yard.

If I see that play again this year I'm going to need a straight jacket.

This one is pretty simple, Gaines was signed at TE to also fill the H-Back roll, this is a trend in the NFL, HBacks replacing FB's. If Davis can have a camp as good as McKie he'll probably get the job considering the 500k savings in cap space. Ta'ufo'ou will be a practice squad player for sure.

I suspect the game has passed me by. I still remember one-two punches with fullbacks carrying the ball almost as much as halfbacks. Now it seems like the defense can key on the halfback and just plug up the hole when the fullback leads to block by undercutting him.I even still remember when a fullback could move the whole defensive line and pick up one and a half or two yards for a first down or even a score. Now all they seem to do is lead block or protect the passer, so why does a team need more than one? The tight ends can certainly fill in on occasion, and they should be as experienced at blocking as the fullback.

Man, it seems to me ever since the Bears let Marc Edwards go we haven't had a really great fullback. I remember that guy clearing lanes for Thomas Jones left and right. I just don't see that as often from Mckie. He's a tough guy that plays hurt but isn't a punishing blocker. Let him go.

I'd rather have a tough, punishing guy like Ta'ufo'ou or Fortes' boy Davis.

I happen to be a fan of using the occasional FB run, but I agree that Turner's use of it last year was rediculous. Not only did it become predictable, but we simply didnt have the O Line to do it. Beekman seems to be better making the second block than the first, Olin's not a road grater, and Garza gets knocked around by safties.

IF you have an Oline built to pound the ball, the FB dives can work (at least vs the 4-3), but I don't see McKie as the guy to do it. He's proven that he's a decent lead blocker and pass catcher, but his carrying ability is disappointing.

Paul, I think you can blame college coaches for the lack of great FB's in the NFL today. Most of what you see coming into the NFL today are overweight RB's (which is my opinion of McKie). Why do you think the best Fullbacks in the game are in their mid-late 30's? (Neal for example is really getting up there) I'm not really in touch with High School football, but with the FB almost non-existant in the NCAA, it's gotta be nearly impossible for coaches to get their hands on the old-school prototype FB you're remembering.

Anthony, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who hated those short yardage plays to the FB last year. They definitely pissed me off, and they definitely didn't work, but who's really to blame? Like Manter said, a bruising FB and a decent O-LIne should be able to get 1-2 yards no matter what. So were they bad play calls by Turner, poor execution by the line, or can our current FB not get the job done? I've always liked J-Mac and personally think that this year's improved line won't let that happen again.

Either way, the Bears better improve on short yardage situations this year or we'll end up giving several games away again. From what I understand, there's nothing more demoralizing to a defense than to give up a touchdown or first down on 4th down.

Is the season here yet? (Sigh)

With the options available having Lance Louis and Gaines on the roster, we should definately only have one fullback, McKie has tradeability, the others do not, I think the smart move would be to involve McKie and Hillenmeyer and Rashied Davis, in a trade for a decent reciever, and keep Davis on the roster and Will on the practice squad. BEAR DOWN!

Don't count out Will Ta'ufo'ou. He was a four year starter at Cal where he was described as a bruising fullback with excellent blocking and in four years was never tackled for a loss while carrying the ball. I doubt we would be able to hide him on the practice squad. He may not have the pass catching ability that Mckie does but he has been durable and I would much rather see him carry the ball on 4th and one. Also they can still use Gaines as an H back who can occasionally catch passes. You really want Forte catching the passes out of the backfield anyway. Considering how much we run up the middle we could use a big bruising Samoan who never gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage. I've liked Mckie but we really won't see the fullback as much now that we have Cutler we should see more 2 tight end sets. As long as Will Ta'ufo'ou can step up on special teams I hope he makes the roster.

Does Henry Melton or Lance Louis fit into any H-Back plans. Melton was a goal line beast as a freshmen and sophmore at Texas - 10td's a freshmen. Lance Louis is a converted TE and if has any hope of making the team he might be more valuable as a blocking TE or H-Back on the goal line.

Wow, great points all around. But why is it that no one is saying the obvious? In the fateful year of 1985 a certain team took a risk in bringing in a defensive line man to block for the greatest running back to live. Now we have a young hot shot QB, a great running back, and a rookie defensive line man who scored a rushing touchdown in a college bowl game. Who needs a full back or a H back. We have Henry Melton. Never forget your roots!!!! Perry I hope you get to be at the game when Henry comes rumbling on to the offense. Every old thing is new again.

Louis, as a 300 pounder that runs a 4.6-7, being a project, should be moved over to DT. With the "Best Defensive Line Coach in the Galaxy", it would be an easier transition than Turner mentoring the kid.

McKie is a bum. I'd much rather see Davis or the rookie from California take his spot this season.

McKie is OK but why not give Ta'ufo'ou the Cal kid a try at fullback, he may be a better lead blocker and better runner than McKie, I don't know how good his ability to catch out of the backfield is at this point, something to work to improve. Maybe it is time to try to trade some players like McKie, Hillenmeyer etc for a proven wideout as noted by Bigggk in Cali.

The 1/2 yard plunge play to the fullback was so predictable; I know of 3 separate occasions where it was called and failed, I can only remember it being successful twice. I don't think it was the lines fault as it was the predictable play calling.

The H back concept seems to be a possibility given the talent at tight end and the two new rookies that may fit this role.

Go Bears

I'm still waiting for a scheme that involves both Kevin Jones and Matt Forte in the backfield at the same time. Both are nice size guys that can handle all blocking assignments. Both are athletic, with more explosion than any fullback. With both in the backfield, defenses wouldn't know who to key on. And both can catch out of the backfield. How could this not be a good thing???

I hate McKie. I think it is time for some fresh blood, even though he is a decent blocker and can catch the ball, he has no ground gain ability. I also cannot put all the blame on him, esp at the Dome last yer on 1st and goal on the half foot line. The O-line was awful. I like the rookie from Cal too. I hope he gets a chance to play.

I really have to question those who consider McKie a decent blocker.

Check out Ta'ufo'ou's highlight reel:

He was my favorite Cal player to watch on every play. He loves to hit guys, has good blocking technique, and when he gets on someone, he keeps pushing until the guy is on his back or out of bounds. It was not uncommon for him to be out ahead of a play, put a LB on his butt, keep going and take on another defender. Tofu would probably not be much of a rushing/receiving fullback at the NFL level, but he's probably a better blocker than anyone the Bears have, even if he's undersized.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 9, 2009 6:06 AM.

23 days to Camp: Examining the Bears at defensive tackle was the previous entry in this blog.

21 days to camp: Four Down Territory and then some is the next entry in this blog.

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