Since trading FB Tyler Clutts in 2012, the Chicago Bears have experimented with a number of different players to fill the club's need for a part-time lead blocker.
The coaching staff has inserted a number of tight ends and H-backs, with varying degrees of success. Paul Lasike, a throwback fullback, played 10 games last season but failed to make a substantial impact.
Following the draft, the Bears signed former Florida State FB Freddie Stevenson, who will be the only fullback in training camp this year, barring any future roster changes. Let's break down film of Stevenson and evaluate his odds of making the 53-man roster.
-0:15 – Stevenson lines up wing right and sprints to the right flat at the snap. He runs right past the inside linebacker, who has a free run at the RB but cannot make the tackle. Stevenson then misses his second-level block on the safety, who makes the tackle.
-0:50 – Stevenson lines up off-set right, then crosses behind the line of scrimmage at the snap. He turns the corner, finds the linebacker and attacks his outside shoulder, thus sealing him inside and allowing the ball carrier plenty of room around the edge.
-2:08 – Lined up wing left, he executes a stud block on the defensive end. Stevenson shows good blocking form, with wide feet and sunken hips, and drives the defender inside. The RB easily turns the corner for the first down and more.
-2:19 – I-formation, Stevenson the lead blocker. He approaches the line of scrimmage and attacks the DE, yet the defender gets his shoulder pads lower and takes out Stevenson’s feet. This creates a pile at the point of attack and clogs up the running lane. This was a smart play by the defender, who won the pad-level battle.
-2:26 – Shotgun right, Stevenson sprints to the right flat and makes the catch using both hands. He quickly turns up-field, beats the linebacker to the sideline and picks up 15 yards. After the catch, he looked more like a running back than a fullback, showing good acceleration.
-2:46 – Wing right, 1-on-1 block against the DE. Stevenson swallows him up, then mirrors the defender as he tries to maneuver toward the ball. Good power at first contact and good agility to stick with the block.
-4:36 – Shotgun left, sprint out to the left flat. Good hands catch near the sideline. Stevenson then quickly turns his hips and nearly stays inbounds. Solid hands catch, good acceleration.
-0:09 – Stevenson lined up H-back right. He leads into the A gap and explodes into the blitzing linebacker. He locks up the defender, which creates a nice crease for the RB up the middle.
-1:54 – H-back left, Stevenson leads the left B gap. He nearly runs right past the penetrating LB and at the last second turns to get a hand on him but it’s too late. The defender interrupts the play and the RB is tackle after a short gain.
-2:33 – H-back left, Stevenson sprints off-tackle and locks up the LB. He sticks with the block, which eventually allows the running back to reach the sideline after a 9-yard gain.
-0:00 – Off-set right, lead block off C gap. Nickelback blitzes and Stevenson rocks him on his heels. RB picks up seven yards. Great power at the point of attack.
-1:15 – Shotgun left, Stevenson leads straight ahead and attacks the outside shoulder of the blitzing middle linebacker, who is already locked up with the left guard. This creates a huge running lane for the 14-yard TD.
-2:13 – I-formation, Stevenson leads through the right B gap, locks up the CB and drives him out of the hole. Good patience and a solid lead block that springs a 26-yard run.
-5:32 – Off-set left, CB blitzes off the left edge. Stevenson swallows him up and drives him to the turf.
-1:11 - I-formation, pitch right, Stevenson lead block around the edge, explodes into the DT, driving him into a fallen body and onto his face. He then turns and seals another DL outside, giving the RB an inside cut lane.
-3:09 - I-formation, lead block through right C gap. Notice Setevenson footwork and balance as he works his way through a mess of legs and feet, then still finds the defender and locks him up.
-9:22 - Shotgun right, Stevenson sprints to the third level, finds the safety and takes out his legs. This allows the RB to hit the sideline for a huge gain. Acceleration and athleticism on display here. Full disclosure: Stevenson was penalized for blocking below the waist on this play, although the replay shows a highly questionable call.
Stevenson is not your typical throwback fullback. He's more of a an H-back or "move" tight end. He has experience lining up all over the backfield and working as a blocker from a number of different positions on the field.
As a lead blocker, the former linebacker doesn't hit the hole like a bull in a china shop. Instead, he's more measured as he approaches the point of attack. Yet, when Stevenson lines up a defender, he delivers a lot of short-area power. He doesn't need a full head of steam to put a defender on his heels, particularly at the second level.
He was rarely used as a receiver by FSU, yet he showed good burst and speed after the catch on his two receptions against Louisville. In addition, he showed good hands during rookie minicamp, so he could have value as a short-yardage pass-catching option out of the backfield.
He only received 13 carries in 2016 but he scored 4 TDs, so he has a nose for the end zone, particularly near the goal line.
The Bears waived Paul Lasike shortly after the draft, meaning Stevenson is the only pure fullback on the roster. The film shows an athletic backfield player who brings power at the point of attack, as well as potential as a receiver.
If he exhibits all those traits during training camp and the preseason, while also carving out a role on special teams, Stevenson could squeeze way onto the final 53-man roster -- which would be particularly beneficial for Jordan Howard, whom most expect to be the focal point of the offense this season.