ANDERSON – One early Indianapolis Colts training camp question lingers without a clear answer: How serious is the fullback plan?
After all, the fullback position went out of vogue in the NFL around the time of Andrew Luck's birth (1989) if not earlier. Yet this is the innovation new Colts coordinator is bringing to the table in 2013?
Is he putting us on?
“We're going to do whatever we need to do to score ultimately,” Hamilton said as training camp opened at Anderson University, “but a fullback for us, being able to run the power schemes, being able to run the football, is a prize piece in our offense.”
The more Hamilton talked, however, the more one gets the sense the fullback idea remains an evolving one.
At the crux of the idea is the need to protect Luck, with both an effective running game and in pass protection.
“If you just follow the ball, a lot of times the fullback will be somewhere around,” Hamilton said. “In our offense, we want to have that true sense of balance in our offense. That's a big part of taking some of the burden off the quarterback position, just being able to run the football as well as throw the football.”
As the Colts continue training camp, they have two true fullbacks on the roster: Stanley Havila, a 6-foot, 243-pound third-year player out of USC who had six carries with the Philadelphia Eagles last season, and Dan Moore, a 5-11, 240-pound undrafted rookie out of Montana.
Havila logged 1,290 yards receiving and 509 yards rushing at USC in his senior season in 2010. Moore rushed for 5.4 yards per carry his senior season last year. Both are adept at run-blocking as well.
Both players are potentially strong special-teams players, so they could be valuable even if the Colts' fullback formations aren't as frequently seen as might be implied.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano offered the idea that the team used a fullback last season, but it was often tight end Dwayne Allen.
“Dwayne was listed as a tight end but somebody was still moving into the backfield at times,” Pagano said. “Now we've just got a guy that looks like a fullback, smells like a fullback, he's listed as a fullback. We're going to do everything we can to improve our ability to run the football. It's going to take pressure off our quarterback. It's going to take time off the clock.”
Pagano said the team will continue to rely on multiple-receiver sets on the usual necessary downs and hinted that the fullback could come in handiest when entering ball-control, clock-management times.
If the running back, fullback or no fullback, is successful, it takes pressure off Luck in the figurative sense of needing to make big plays happen and in the literal sense of keeping pass rushers at bay. Luck was sacked 41 times last season. There's an emphasis on not letting that happen again.
“Our goal is to not drop back and throw the football 700 times,” Hamilton said. “Our goal is to do whatever it takes to score touchdowns.”
Hamilton said offenses that are successful, “especially during December and in the playoffs,” are the ones that are most balanced and can run the football and stop the run.
The Colts' running back spot will be manned primarily by free agent signee Ahmad Bradshaw, second-year back Vick Ballard and veteran Donald Brown. Delone Carter and Kerwynn Williams are also in the mix.
“I think it'll be a detailed, exact offense,” Luck said. “We have a fullback now as opposes to last year. That'll be the biggest difference I think people notice. Personnel and formations change a little bit because of that. It's still football. Football is football whether you're Chip Kelly or whatever offense you're running. It's football.”