After one season, the 2013 Baltimore Ravens draft class has shown promise, but only from a few participants. Overall, of the nine players who made the team from the class, only Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and Ricky Wagner surpassed 100 snaps in their rookie campaigns.
Long term, the group has promise, but so far, the jury is still out on how much of an impact the day three guys will have.
Heading into the 2013 season, fourth round pick fullback Kyle Juszczyk looked like a viable early impact player as a fullback/H-back combination. His NFL potential was profiled here last May. Instead, he was relegated to an almost exclusive special teams role, being active for all 16 games but recording just four offensive snaps.
He did provide one of the highlights of Baltimore’s season, however.
Part of the reason for his sparse playing time was because Baltimore’s Jim Caldwell-led offense wasn’t one to incorporate a role that Juszczyk will have in the NFL. Juszczyk isn’t just a traditional line-up-and-block fullback, as his receiving value is much higher than his worth as a blocker.
How can the Ravens get him on the field in 2014?
In recent years, the Houston Texans offense has been the blueprint for how to use a player like Juszczyk, someone who can play fullback, H-back and tight end in various situations.
This was more evident than ever in 2012, when then Texans H-back James Casey had a career year, catching 34 passes for 330 yards. Now in Philadelphia, Casey’s four-year Texans career showed steady improvement as Houston’s offense gradually geared more toward his skill set.
Each season, his receptions, targets, yards and first downs increased.
As Casey became a reliable out-of-the-backfield target the offense geared more toward getting him the ball in high-percentage situations. The creativity of Houston’s offense often led to Casey being wide open out of the backfield, and it was usually an easy game of pitch and catch between he and quarterback Matt Schaub.
Here’s a look at the various ways the 2012 Texans offense highlighted Casey, and how Juszczyk could be used in the new Kubiak-led Ravens offense.
Here, Casey is lined up on the strong side of the offense similar to a traditional fullback, but out a bit more wide.
Off the play action to Casey’s side, most of the defense buys it, which gives Casey a one-on-one opportunity with a recovering linebacker.
This leads to easy pickings for Schaub and Casey.
The creativity of the Ravens offense will be key, and the run game will have to be established to sell the run as successfully as the Texans often did during the Kubiak era. But when they can get the entire defense to commit to a side, it could open up opportunities for easy reception opportunities for Juszczyk.
Another way Casey was used was in empty packages, with running back Arian Foster lined up out wide (this would likely be Ray Rice in most situations).
The stacked right side of the offense that included a tight end, Foster and Casey led to an advantage for Houston in the numbers game. The defense didn’t have a man to defend Casey, leaving him wide open in the flat.
This play was actually an incompletion as Schaub was hit as he threw, but it could have been an easy first down for Casey if completed.
The two plays above didn’t confuse the defense too much, but when the Texans offense was even more creative, it was tough to figure it out.
On this play against the Ravens in 2012, Casey is lined up directly behind the quarterback, with two receivers on the same side, one off the line.
Off the snap, the Texans implement the often-used play action, the off-the-line receiver comes back through the backfield and Casey heads out into the flat.
This leaves Terrell Suggs to take on Foster and Schaub in the backfield, leaving Casey in a potential one-on-one opportunity in the flat with the oncoming linebacker.
The pass was batted down, but the play design still persists.
Handing the ball off to Juszczyk may also be an option, albeit one that occurs once or twice a year. But if he is the ball carrier, this could be how the play is designed.
In order to establish himself as a player capable of Casey’s role in Houston, Juszczyk will first need to make himself a viable blocking option, to help the Baltimore offense sell play fakes more. He already has the immense short-yardage receiving potential along with after-the-catch ability, and with time in Kubiak’s offense, he could develop into an H-back as capable as Casey was in Houston.
Don’t expect 34 catches from Juszczyk in 2014, but expect him to be a more useful part of the offense.