The Chicago Bears haven't rostered a throwback fullback since Tyler Clutts in 2011. Since then the club has used a mishmash of H-backs and "move" tight ends to serve as lead blockers, with mixed results at best.
Yet all that could change this season with FB Paul Lasike, who had a strong performance in last night's preseason finale. The former rugby player from BYU, who didn't start playing football until college, finished with 3 carries for 9 yards and had 1 catch for 25 yards, during which he plowed over two defenders.
Beyond his stat line, Lasike also showed competence as a lead blocker, which is what the Bears have been lacking for half a decade.
Let's go to the film room to break down Lasike's performance against the Cleveland Browns.
Lasike lines up off-set left and will lead block off-tackle on DE Emmanuel Ogbah.
Lasike drops his shoulder and delivers a blow into Ogbah's midsection, while at the same time hooking him inside with his outside arm.
We can now see Ogbah's No. 90, meaning Lasike has completely turned him away from the play, creating an outside running lane for RB Ka'Deem Carey.
Lasike lines up in I-formation in front of Carey. Lasike will crash left at the snap.
Lasike delivers a shot on the inside linebacker, which creates a nice cutback lane for Carey.
As Carey falls into the end zone for the touchdown, notice Lasike has put the defender on his butt. That's short-yardage football at its finest.
This is an A gap run with Lasike (blue) as the lead blocker. He is targeting the inside linebacker (red).
He lines up the block but the ILB steps inside and Lasike slides right past.
As the linebacker prepares to clean up the play, Lasike is falling off balance, blocking no one.
This is a play action pass. Lasike will clear the line of scrimmage and then break into the left flat.
Lasike makes the catch with no one around him. This is common for fullbacks, who are often an afterthought in the passing game.
Lasike trucks the first defender at the 20-yard line.
Lasike trucks the second defender at the 15-yard line before being taken down at the 10.
The Bears have struggled in short yardage for years and Lasike showed last night that he could cure those woes. He showed good awareness as a lead blocker, particularly out of I-formation, and he packs a pop when taking on defenders. He still needs to develop more consistency when lining up linebackers, as shown on Play III, but his ceiling as a lead blocker is high.
Having a fullback who can clear out linebackers at the point of attack has become a luxury in the NFL, one most teams can't afford. For the Bears, who could struggle to keep Jay Cutler upright in the passing game, Lasike is a necessity. If John Fox is truly committed to being a run-first team, then a throwback fullback should be on the roster. Only then can the Bears successfully pound the rock and control the clock.
Lasike also showed good forward lean as a ball carrier on quick hits up the gut, as well as good hands out of the backfield. I've been watching Lasike catch passes since he was on the practice squad last year and he has legitimate hands. On play action passes, when fullbacks are often lost in the shuffle, he can be a weapon, particularly on 3rd downs.
Lasike has also been working with the first team in the majority of the special teams units. His size and power bring value to the club's third phase.
For all these reasons, Lasike should be firmly entrenched on the Bears' final 53-man roster.