The fullback position is dying in the NFL. Every year, NFL teams utilize the fullback position in their offense less and less. Last season, the New York Giants ran 21-personnel on just 5% of their offensive snaps. Pat Shurmur’s offense featured a heavy dosage of 11-personnel, operating out of that grouping 74% of the time (2nd-highest rate in the NFL).
The Giants were rarely using the fullback position despite having a pretty talented player on the roster at that position. Elijhaa Penny has been with the Giants since 2018. But in both of his seasons with the Giants, Penny played 12% of the team’s offensive snaps.
In 2018, Penny finished the season as the 4th highest graded fullback with a 68.6 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus. Penny’s PFF grade dropped to 57.7 overall in 2019, but the Giants’ offense as a whole saw a decline in performance.
Why Elijhaa Penny Should Be Utilized More In 2020
Pat Shurmur was a fan of Elijhaa Penny, but he never really utilized him in the Giants’ offense. Shurmur spent the vast majority of the Giants’ snaps in 11-personnel. The Giants’ wide receiver-heavy offense struggled the past two seasons. But the Giants now have a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive scheme to implement.
The Giants’ new offensive coordinator is Jason Garrett. Garrett was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys since 2010 and served as their offensive coordinator for three years prior. He has not called plays on offense since 2012, however, the offensive coordinators on his staff have been running Garrett’s offensive system. Garrett’s system has been highly efficient for the Cowboys as they had six top-ten finishes over the years.
Jason Garrett’s offense has a strong emphasis on the running game. In 2019, Dallas ran the ball on average 28.1 times per game (9th highest rate in the NFL). Pat Shurmur’s offense in New York averaged 22.6 rushing attempts per game (4th fewest). The Cowboys also utilized 21-personnel far more often than the Giants.
As previously mentioned, the Giants ran 21-personnel on just 5% of their offensive snaps (21st highest frequency). The Dallas Cowboys utilized 21-personnel on 9% of their offensive snaps (13th highest frequency). Under Jason Garrett, the Giants are likely to run more 21-personnel and utilize the fullback position at a higher rate. This could mean an expanded role is in store for Elijhaa Penny in 2020.