Sakamoto: 49ers offense to feature a healthy dose of “Juice” in 2017

Shanahan is all about the ‘Juice’

The NFL has transcended into a pass-first league. As a result, fullbacks have become obsolete. No longer are NFL teams using 21 personnel. Sad but true. The San Francisco 49ers are hoping to change that ideology as they go back to their roots, re-installing the West Coast Offense

While the majority of NFL offenses feature 11 personnel, the west coast offense instead heavily favors backs and tight ends. Furthermore, the quarterback is often under center taking three-to-five step drop-backs. These “timing” drop-backs allow receivers to get open in a timely fashion. 

Because the west coast offense is founded on “stretching out” defenses horizontally, it’s imperative the team carries backs capable of making catches in the flats. As a result of the new scheme, the team had a huge need at fullback. 

Niners GM John Lynch raved about FB Kyle Juszczyk shortly after signing him to four-year deal worth up to $21 million. The move made him the highest paid fullback in the NFL. 

“He’s worth it to us…Let’s not think of him as a fullback. He’s an OW. So, if you see OW, that stands for offensive weapon,” Lynch said. 

Breaking into the NFL as a fourth-round pick (No. 130) of the 2013 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens, Juszczyk has seen plenty of targets coming out of the backfield. 133 to be exact. Traditionally fullbacks aren’t typically seeing that many balls thrown their way but “Juice” is a different breed.

While Juszczyk has yet to be a focal point of the 49ers offense, I fully expect him to be the team’s secret weapon in 2017. 

Versatility is paramount in the NFL. Luckily for Juszczyk he has that box checked. Probably the team’s most versatile player on the offensive side of the ball, “Juice” can play multiple positions. Line him up as a traditional fullback in split-formation, flex him out wide as an additional receiver or motion him across the line–pick your poison, Juice can and will create mismatches for opposing linebackers. 

For this reason, Juice brings much more to the table than simply being your traditional fullback. Rather I envision more of an H-back role for the Harvard product.

The role of H-back vastly differs from that of a traditional running back and fullback. In fact, an H-back is more closer related to a tight end. The H-back lines up slightly off the line of scrimmage much like a flanker. 

The sole responsibility of an H-back is to lead block, catch passes over the middle, and pass protect. Juszczyk performs all of these tasks well, which is why HC Kyle Shanahan coveted the Pro Bowl talent. 

Throughout training camp, Juice has been nothing short of impressive. He doesn’t drop balls and by no means a “body catcher.” He catches everything his way while routinely beating one-on-one coverage. If Juice can put it all together, he should be a fantasy sleeper– especially in goal-line situations.  

Juice is by far the team’s best player at his position. There is no competition behind him. He will get plenty of snaps which will result in more opportunities for targets. Not to mention, he will likely be QB Brian Hoyer’s security blanket on check downs, Juice will definitely be a go-to receiver on game days. 

No matter how you blend it up, Juice will be a team’s secret weapon in 2017. I guarantee it. In three NFL seasons, Juszczyk has recorded 97 catches for 769 yards and five touchdowns. 

BEASTwriter Predicted stat line: 54 catches for 405 yards and three touchdowns/32 carries for 144 yards and four touchdowns.  

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.

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