The fullback position has certainly died out in the new era of football. By the time I got into football, there were no longer football players like Larry Csonka, Marion Motley, Bronko Nagurki, and Jim Taylor.
Instead of using their brute strength to get the ball down field, teams rely on their power to block the players who use their speed to get down the field. That annoys me, personally. While I love to see players use their speed to outrun players to get into the end zone, I miss seeing running backs go mano-a-mano with a defensive player. I'm not saying there aren't strong halfbacks in the league, because there are, but the power running game with the fullback is just not what it once was.
There were a few times where teams seemed to be returning to the fullback era. Zach Crockett was often used to power his way into the end zone. The Ravens used Le'Ron McClain heavily in the run game in the 2008 season, where he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards. However, his role in Baltimore died with the emergence of Ray Rice.
In Seattle, Leonard Weaver was used in both the running and passing game, totaling 900 yards in his three years with the Seahawks. After signing with the Eagles, he saw his number get called on even more, piling up 463 yards in his first season. However, he was injured in his second season with Philadelphia and was placed on Injured Reserve.
In the 2010 season, there's been a new player attempting to bring back the fullback position: the Oakland Raiders' own Marcel Reece.
Reece is a 240 lb. fullback in his second season with the Raiders. Playing wide receiver in college, Reece has displayed some of the better hands we've seen on the team.
The Raiders are now beginning to incorporate their newly found gem more and more on offense. In Denver, Hue Jackson and head coach Tom Cable dialed up more fullback runs to see what Reece can do. He responded by rushing for 39 yards on seven attempts, averaging over five yards per carry. He also did a great job blocking for Darren McFadden, who averaged over ten yards per carry.
In week eight against the Seahawks, Hue Jackson continued his experiment by using Reece more in the offense, sending him out on more passing routes. It started with Reece lining up wide, catching the slant in-between two players and taking it all the way for 30 yards and a touchdown on the fourth down. The other big catch Reece had was on a 51 yard screen, where he displayed his speed and outran most of the Seattle defense.
After seeing what he could do in both aspects, don't be surprised to see Marcel's stats increase even more as teams continue to game-plan against Darren McFadden. What I really hope to see is more touches and help get the ball down field, like many great fullbacks have in the past.
I have no doubt the Raiders will continue to use him in their offense, and I have no doubt that Reece will continue to impress not only the Raider Nation, but the rest of the NFL on his way to the Pro-Bowl!