Buffalo Bills bringing back the lost art of the fullback with Frank Summers

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Looking back to the 2012 season some of my favorite moments in the Ralph were getting all of Section 117 to loudly beg and plead for a handoff to Corey McIntyre. I’ve always loved the fullback position, though I was too small to play during my short football career I always had respect for how crazy those guys are to give up their body so someone else could take the glory of a big gain or a long touchdown run. As free agency was winding down it became evident that we were not going to make an offer to McIntyre and I was not a fan of that decision.

My cousin, Scott Rothrock played collegiate football as a fullback. I got the chance to talk to him a few weeks ago and I asked him a few questions about what he thought of the way the fullback position was used in the college and NFL offensive schemes. His answer was simple, aside from blocking it’s virtually nonexistent. When he got to school, they moved him as a running back to a fullback. What this meant for him, as is the case with a lot of fullbacks in today’s game was that he was running drills with the offensive line group. Not taking snaps with the running backs, not getting handed the ball, but working on blocking. Plainly put his role on the offense was purely blocking, a role by the way he took with pride and performed at a high level.

With that being said, a question to all of you people who actually understand the game, why? I mean, honestly, if you’re not going to have a guy in there that touches the ball, why not just put an extra tackle in there to get up a few steps and block? That has never made any sense to me.

Anyways, lets get back to that training camp of 2013… There was this bowling ball of a man, wearing 38, running drills with the running backs. Were they replacing McIntyre? Could they? Well, I was on board with the decision because I saw a lot of heart in this beast of a man they called Frank Summers, of course I had to look up his name in the program. As we watched the practice the guy definitely wasn’t the quickest or fastest, but he was working his tail off. He fell on a lot of the drills and despite being laughed at by the likes of Jackson and Spiller, he got up, finished, then shared in the laughter with them.

As we headed into the 2013 season with an opening game against the Patriots we saw a little of the FB, but the Bills in that game mainly lined up in the read option set with Jackson or Spiller standing next to EJ in the shotgun. This never made sense to me, in my humble opinion both backs run better with a lead blocking FB. When all was said and done we had lost in a one score game but as we lined up for our first offensive series against the Ravens the following week, I noticed 38 out on the field. The first play was a swing pass to Summers, a 37 yard gain up the left side of the field, and I thought to myself “that’s our guy!”

Throughout the rest of the season we rarely used the FB as an offensive weapon, but when we did we saw a lot of success.

SummersStats

Looking at these stats it’s pretty simple, Summers ran the ball 12 times, had 1 TD and 3 FD (in the NFL a FD counts as a first down) and averaged 3.8 yards per gain. Summers was thrown to 8 times, had 1 drop and in 7 catches had 79 yards, averaged 11.3 yards per catch with 1 TD and 4 FD. These are very solid numbers, which we could use more of.

I decided to breakdown a couple of plays here, they both happen to be his touchdown plays but it will help my point. The first play is a 2nd and goal from the 2 yard line. The backfield has 2 backs, Summers (top) and Fred Jackson. Notice the JAX defender in green, and where he is looking in the backfield.

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The ball snaps and EJ fakes the ball to Jackson, again look where the corner is cheating to and the safety is out of the play… Neither player even cares to notice Summers, who is sneaking out of the backfield.

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EJ makes a toss that even Stevie Johnson wouldn’t drop, sorry that was out of line. Again, look where the corner is, noticing how his cheating didn’t pay off he’s running his tail off to get to Summers who makes the easy grab for a TD.

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In the following play we have a pretty simple formation, Frank is lead blocker for Jackson, again on a 2nd from the 2 yard line.

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Again, on this play watch where all the Jets defenders eyes are, they’re only on Fred Jackson who at this point is getting a fake toss because Summers, in the red circle has the ball.

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This is a pretty simple play. Frank Summers is 5’9″ 240, and I can tell you that any linebacker or safety would not like to get in his way, so he will not be stopped and with a head of steam he easily walks into the end zone for 6.

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Did I say easily? First he ran over our star center, Eric Wood. I told you, this guy is a beast. (Bonus comment, look at the block Chandler is laying out? Who said he couldn’t block?!)

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Both college and professional defenses in today’s game rarely account for the fullback as a player who can potentially make an offensive play. I feel the Buffalo Bills are in a position where we could fully take advantage of this next season. We have ourselves a balanced fullback who can block, run and catch which is a rare commodity in today’s game. We have already shown flashes of our ability to get him the ball and make things happen, but we need to increase touches and give this guy more opportunities to fool opposing defenses. As Nate Hackett gets more comfortable with our offense and adjusts to the NFL we should expect to see big things out of Frank Summers in the 2014 season.


 

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  • Tom Watson

    We should definitely use Frank “The Tank” Summers more often, he should get at least five touches a game. With his low center of gravity he is an imposing figure on the field. He is at his best when he gets the ball with a head of steam then watch out and get out of his way cause he is a man on a mission.

    • Mike Guittar

      That is a great point. I should have included something about touches in the article. My father always tells me about the NFL when he was younger, and the game was simply played with the FB on each team expected to get around 10 touches a game! Yet here we are, hoping for 5! Crazy how the game changes! Thanks for the comment Tom!