METAIRIE, La. — There was a time when Jed Collins would have been the last of the old breed, a hard-nosed, physical fullback whose position was specifically as a lead-blocker.
The advent of the pass-oriented offense meant more players dedicated to the passing game. And that meant less need for the fullback.
Then the Saints had success on offense with a fullback. As did the Patriots. And, last season, so did the 49ers and Ravens.
And now? Well, Collins can be considered a trail blazer, not an expert at a dying art.
“A lot of teams are understanding you control the ball with a good run game,” Collins said. “I think that’s one of the lessons we’ve learned here. With a solid run game you can control the clock and control the pass game and control the game overall.”
In 2012, New England and Baltimore made the AFC championship game carrying the league’s No. 7 and No. 11 rushing offense in the NFL. San Francisco earned a Super Bowl berth with the league’s No. 4-ranked run game.
In a copy cat league, it’s a pretty fair guess that the fullback will be making its way back into offenses around the league.
The seasons that New Orleans has had its most success have come when the Saints have had a stellar running attack. Between Heath Evans and Collins and any other mix the Saints have used in the backfield, the position has been key.
That won’t change.
“We believe in having a fullback,” coach Sean Payton said. “Now, there are snaps where they are not on the field, but for us, it is much like one of your inside linebackers. You may not play them every down, but they are going to be an integral part of what you do.”
For Collins, who bounced around the NFL before finally solidifying his position in 2011 with New Orleans, the position is evolving as more and more athletic players take over at the position.
“It’s a pass-happy league right now,” Collins said. “Big scores keep the fans in the stands and people think if you can outscore the other team you can win. So a lot of teams have looked at it and said the fullback isn’t athletic enough to be a tight end and he’s not able to do certain things on the field.”
Collins hopes to be on the front lines of change and he’s willing to do it any way possible.
“Myself and other fullbacks throughout the league kind of want to start changing that motto to the fullback can do a lot of the things tight ends can do and kind of flip the switch on it,” Collins said. “Coach (Payton) talks about it every day, adding value to the team. As the fullback I’m out here long snapping, short snapping, playing special teams and I’d hold (Drew Brees’) helmet if it helps.”
Brees, for what it’s worth, is just fine with having Collins and the fullback position on the roster. He understands the significance of the fullback to what he does behind center.
“Typically, you would say the fullback doesn't get a whole lot of love on in our offense,” Brees said. “It’s usually running backs, receivers, tight ends, and such but there’s no guy that’s as important to the elements of the run game and protection and some of these other things as a guy like Jed Collins. He plays a very specific and a very unique role but it’s a very special one.”