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Should the Green Bay Packers Keep 2 Fullbacks on Their 53-Man Roster

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 15 Jul 2015

When final cuts come around, could the Green Bay Packerskeep twofullbacks on the 53-man roster'A better question might be: Can they afford not to'The Packers re-signed nine-year veteran fullback John Kuhn to what will in all likelihood turn out to be his final one-year deal this offseason. However, general manager Ted Thompson also drafted his future replacement in May in Oklahoma's Aaron Ripkowski.In an ideal world, Ripkowski would get a year to learn the offense behind Kuhn and contribute on special teams right away. Meanwhile, Kuhn would continue his important roleslead-blocking for halfback Eddie Lacy and carrying or catching the ball in some goal-line and third-down situations.However, plenty of other positions could use that extra spot for all the talented players currently on the roster, especially at linebacker, defensive line or cornerback.Many teams do not even have one fullback on the roster. Butthe Packers still utilize the fullback position, though, that use is moving away from pass-catching and more toward lead-blocking. Kuhn's ability to catch passes out of the backfield was his bread and butter for years, but his ability to block for Lacy has kept him relevant.When Aaron Rodgers suffered a calf injury in Week 16 of the 2014 season, the Packers needed Lacyto carry more of the loadand Kuhn to lead-block for him. It was a successful combination. When Rodgers left the Week 17 game against the Detroit Lions temporarily, Kuhn helped Lacy rush for 100 yards on 26 carries.Ripkowski is perhaps a better run-blocker than pass-catcher, but that could suit what the Packers are doing with the position.Ripkowski blocked for what was the top rushing offense in the nation at Oklahoma in 2014. Healso scored three touchdowns on six rushing attempts last season.However, Ripkowski didn't often touch the ball at Oklahoma. Over his career, he had just six carries and seven receptions. As he learns the Packers offense in his first season, it's special teams where he can really make a contribution."So far, Ripkowski says he has been able to pick up the offense,"wrote Tyler Dunne,formerly of theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He expected it to be a challenge. For now, without pads on, it's about making the right reads."We'll see how Ripkowski does when the pads go on in training camp, but it's hard to imagine he'll be able to perform at Kuhn's level by September.Kuhn welcomes the challenge of having a young player at his position. But even if Green Bay keeps both Kuhn and Ripkowski on the 53-man roster, it is almost certainly Kuhn's last year with the team."We preach around here that competition breeds the best football players," Kuhn said recently,per Dunne."If you can't embrace that, if you don't believe it, then what's the point of saying it'"Ripkowski had his "heart set on" coming to Green Bay,per Mike Spoffordof Packers.com. He saw how much the Packers still utilized the fullback position.Though Ripkowksi had only met with two teams prior to the draftGreen Bay and the Denver Broncos, per Spoffordhe wasn't sure if he'd be drafted or signed as a priority free agent."I didnt know it was draft-worthy, but I knew they were interested, and if it came down to free agency, this is the place I would have picked," said Ripkowski, per Spofford.Ripkowski is talented, and clearly he's motivated to carry the torch. But it would be a mistake to throw him into the fire before he's ready.It's not as though if the Packers utilize Kuhn to start the season, Ripkowski will be wasting away on the bench. He'll be able to make an impact early and then slowly begin to earn more snaps toward the end of the year, preparing him to be the sole fullback on the roster in 2016.Keeping two fullbacks on the roster may send another deserving player to the practice squad, but it will have a positive ripple effect on both the offense and special teams.
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