Danny Vitale Preaches Versatility, Saying He Models Game After 49ers' Kyle Juszczyk
With James Develin announcing his retirement this offseason, it was unclear how exactly the New England Patriots would fill the big void left by the former Pro Bowl fullback. New England utilizes their fullback more than many teams in the league do, so finding another one seemed important, especially if they want to run the ball as much as they are projected to do in 2020.
That's where Danny Vitale comes into play.
Back in March, the Patriots signed Vitale to a one-year deal, which hinted at the possibility of Develin retiring, or at the very least not being ready for the start of the 2020 season. Now that Develin is gone, it will be a competition between Vitale and Jakob Johnson for the starting FB job.
But Vitale brings something to the table that Johnson does not: versatility.
Vitale spoke about how he believes versatility is important at the fullback position, as the traditional version of the position is becoming much less prevalent in today's NFL. Because of that, Vitale tries to model his game after one of the best jack-of-all-trades in the league, which is San Francisco 49ers' Kyle Juszczyk.
"Absolutely, I actually talk to Kyle a bunch," Vitale said during his video conference this week when asked if he tries to take anything from Juszczyk's game. "He's a good buddy of mine. We got to do the whole jersey swap and everything like that last year, playing them twice last year when I was in Green Bay. But, yeah, like you said, he's kind of the prime example of what a lot of teams are moving towards.
"Obviously, every offense is different, but he's been able to do a lot of great things since his career in Baltimore and now obviously all the way into San Fran. So, he's kind of the player that I like to model my game after in terms of the versatility aspect. Different teams have different schemes and need their fullbacks to fill different roles, so obviously that's what your scouting departments are looking for is guys who can fill that role that they need. But, yeah, I think he's a good guy to look up to."
After starting his career in Baltimore, Juszczyk has become a household name in the NFL, which has helped him earn four straight Pro Bowl appearances over the past four years. His ability to be a fullback/H-back in San Francisco's offense is one of the reasons the 49ers had such a potent offense last season. Juszczyk's unpredictability in terms of what a defense thinks he will be doing when he's lined up in the backfield allows San Francisco's offense to be very creative, and ultimately, more explosive.
Vitale is not at the level Juszczyk is at. But that could change now that he is part of a team that may utilize his skill set a bit more. Vitale is now part of an offense that has two rookie tight ends that are expected to take on large workloads in their first year, so it would not be surprising to see Vitale used as an H-back often in an attempt to keep defenses guessing in 2020. Because of that, Vitale could quickly become a pivotal piece of New England's offense.
While Vitale will have to fight for snaps this upcoming season with Johnson and tight end Dalton Keene - who was one of New England's third round picks this year that is also very capable of playing an H-back role - Vitale's abilities can add one more wrinkle to a Patriots offense that needs many of them next season if they want to produce at a high level.