In the 2017 NFL offseason 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan took over a 49ers team with a lot of holes on the roster. One of the first moves he made in free agency in the 2017 offseason was signing former Ravens fullback Kyle Juszcyk to a 4 year 21 million dollar contract. Making him the highest paid fullback in NFL history. This was a shocking move to a lot of fans due to the fullback position not being utilized by most teams in the current NFL. Kyle Shanahan does not think like most NFL play callers. He looks at the fullback as not just a blocker, but a weapon.
In Kyle Shanahan’s offense the fullback has more responsibilities than just run blocker. The fullback is a tight end on one play, the next play he is a running back catching a ball out of the backfield. Shanahan uses the fullback as a matchup mismatch for defenses. On one snap, he's lined up in the backfield and is just a simple blocker. Next snap he is running a route out of the same look and catching the ball down the field. Juszczyk is one of the best lead blockers in the NFL, and he is also a threat to catch the ball down the field.
49ers are in your standard I formation, with the quarterback under center, full back behind him, and the running back behind the fullback. Juszczyk is the lead blocker on this outside zone running play. This is the standard way that NFL teams have used fullbacks for decades, and Kyle Shanahan is no different. Juszczyk does well blocking the speedy linebacker before he can make a play on the running back. These are the types of runs you will see multiple times in a game from the 49ers.
This is more of an exotic run play, with the quarterback in the pistol, the fullback to his right, and the running back behind him. Juszczyk crosses the face of the quarterback and makes a block on the edge as the running back bounces the play to the other side. This is a tough block and if the running back would have bounced it to Juszczyk’s side, he would have been there with his man engaged.
Now we see that same formation, but with the fullback now to the left of the quarterback. But this time the fullback becomes a pass catcher. This is a simple route that the Texans had covered, but the quarterback got the ball out on time to Juszczyk, and taking the five yards the defense was giving them. Just because this wasn’t a big gain doesn’t mean this isn’t an important play. This play shows the defense that they will throw the ball to the fullback. When he is in the game, he's not just a blocker, but a pass catcher as well.
Kyle Shanahan likes to get creative with his fullback. Here we see a fake outside zone running play to the left. The quarterback bootlegs to the right side, where the fullback is waiting. This play was covered well by the defense. But that won’t stop Shanahan from going back to these bootleg passes to the fullback.
This is similar to the previous play, but instead, Juszczyk is lined up as a tight end to the play side of the outside zone fake. This is another creative way that Kyle Shanahan will get the ball to his fullback. Juszczyk is the type of player that can handle all of the responsibilities that Shanahan will throw his way.
A defense sees Kyle Juszczyk in the backfield at their own 25. The offense is in the “I” formation, what looks to be a running setup. But this is Kyle Shanahan we are talking about, and he is the master at showing a simple run formation and turning it into a deep passing play.
The linebacker is in to play the run. The defense was ready for a run. Juszczyk heads through the offensive line like it’s a run, but yet he ended up going deep. This is a simple thing that makes it very difficult on a defense to defend. This play is made possible by the fact that the 49ers have a versatile player in Kyle Juszczyk who can not only block at an elite level, but catch passes at an elite level.
Looking ahead to the 2018 season Kyle Juszczyk will be a big part of what the 49ers offense is doing. Kyle Shanahan is a genius when it comes to creating bad matchups for a defense. Kyle Juszczyk is a player that Shanahan will use in many creative ways to keep defenses on their toes. Look for Juszczyk to be lined up all over the formation, and involved heavily in the passing game for the 49ers in 2018.
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