PHOENIX — There was an entire section of the Giants’ offensive playbook that went unused last season after fullback Will Johnson was placed on injured reserve before the start of the season. The Giants had signed the former Steeler as a free agent hoping that he would become a key physical presence for them in their running game. It never happened.
So this season, after signing Rhett Ellison, the blocking tight end from the Vikings, to essentially replace Johnson, do those lost pages of schemes just get dusted off and added to the huge play-calling sheet that Ben McAdoo uses in games?
“Will was transitioning from a fullback-type position to a tight end-type position and was going to be able to do both,” McAdoo said on Tuesday at the NFL’s annual meeting in Arizona. “Rhett is more of a tight end who has some fullback-type qualities to him. But you can certainly use both types of plays.”
That will be a welcome relief to those who believed that the Giants relied too much on three-receiver sets in 2016. McAdoo, by the way, is among them.
“Ideally you’d like more personnel groups,” he said.
Ellison should provide that.
“Anytime you have a big fullback type in the backfield it adds an element of physicality that is tough to replace when you don’t have it,” McAdoo said. “It just didn’t work out last year. It’s not by design.”
McAdoo bristled at speculation that his offense does not need that position.
“I hear that I don’t want to have a fullback on the roster, and that’s news to me,” he said. “I think you want the best team you can put out there, but that position has to have special- teams value. I don’t think you just want someone on your roster who plays seven plays a game. They’re not going to play a ton of plays, but the plays they do play are impactful-type plays in the ballgame. But they need to have some value special teams-wise.”
Ellison may see seven plays a game at fullback, but he’ll also be there at tight end for the majority of the time.
“Rhett offers a lot to us as a pro style tight end,” McAdoo said. “He can help show the way to some of the young players we have in the tight end room.”