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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Will the Vikings use a fullback in 2017?

By Matthew Coller

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Minnesota Vikings fullback Zach Line knows there is a possibility that a change in offensive coordinator could mean a shift in philosophy – one that could put him out of a job in Minnesota. Line is an Unrestricted Free Agent, so his status with the Vikings will depend on whether they see a future for him in the backfield.

Over the first five weeks of the season, the former SMU running back played 25.1% of total snaps, but after Norv Turner resigned he only saw the field on 18.0% of total plays. Take away the Vikings’ matchup with Jacksonville in which they had several goal line running situations and Line played just 14.3% of snaps under Pat Shurmur.

“With Shurmur, some games there would be a ton of fullback and other games would be five or six reps and I would get my playing time on special teams,” Line said at Winterfest on Friday. “I think that’s just how it works in this league. you get your opportunities and you have to make the most of them. There is definitely a place in this offense for a fullback with Shurmur and I think he wants a fullback.”

Here is a look at Line’s game-by-game snap counts. Clearly he was getting more consistent work with Turner at the helm.

Under Turner, the Vikings regularly used Line as a decoy for the passing game. One of the year’s most memorable plays, a 45-yard completion from Sam Bradford to Stefon Diggs in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers, came on a play-fake with Line in the backfield. But a review of the Vikings’ plays during the two games in which Line was used the most – against Arizona and Jacksonville – found only one play-action throw with the fullback on the field.

Running back Jerick McKinnon wasn’t often on the field with Line, but when he was given the ball out of the I-Formation, the duel-threat back had no success.

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Before Turner resigned, the Vikings felt the fullback could be used as an advantage because so few teams still have a blocking back. Running backs coach (now quarterbacks coach) Kevin Stefanski compared it to using traditional big men in the NBA.

“It’s a different brand and you can see it across different sports,” Stefanski said. “It’s like when you see the NBA and everybody’s shooting three-pointers, then all of the sudden you get into a team that wants to pound you in the low post and you’re maybe not prepared for it.”

Shurmur might see it as archaic. His most recent full-time offensive coordinator gig came under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, where the Eagles routinely used multiple duel-threat running backs at the same time.

It became clear that Shurmur wanted quarterback Sam Bradford to throw out of the shotgun as 445 of his 552 pass attempts came in shotgun sets.

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If Shurmur does his research on shot yardage and goal line situations, he will find that the Vikings should probably move away from the traditional sets with a fullback and multiple tight ends.

In 2013, Mike Tanier, currently of Bleacher Report, studied 4th-and-1 situations and how teams approached them. He found that running out of power formations wasn’t the most efficient way to approach them (Chart on right).

Would Adrian Peterson’s status play a role in whether the Vikings want a tight end in the mix? From the I-Formation, he averaged just 3.2 Yards Per Carry in 2015 – though a chunk of those runs may have been in short yardage situations.

At Winterfest, Line said he would love to stay in Minnesota because of the relationships he’s formed with other players. A change in offensive philosophy may take away his chance to do that.

The post Will the Vikings use a fullback in 2017? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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