As mentioned above, most fullbacks in today’s game have more than one skillset and this is true, unless your coach is Bill Belichick. Jakob Johnson is a blocker and his counter strength is more blocking. It took a lot for me to add Johnson to this list of fullbacks because he is most like an H-back tight end. He finished the 2021 season with only four receptions and has never carried the ball in his three-year NFL career.
The reason why I decided to include him is because of the way Belichick used him when he was on the Patriots. Johnson was brought in when the offense couldn’t move the ball through the air. In 2020, the Patriots ranked their lowest offensively since the year 2000. After Tom Brady left, their identity needed to change in order to remain competitive. So they decided to focus on running the ball and over the last two years, Belichick included Johnson in 32% of the total offensive snaps.
Since Rhamondre Stevenson isn’t the fastest back but has very good vision to navigate around blocks in the gap run scheme, Johnson was brought in to lead the way and hit the holes first.
Last year, Belichick knew that his offense was limited with a rookie quarterback, so there were plenty of times where he took the ball out of Mac Jones’ hands.
Take the Week 13 win over the Buffalo Bills game for example — when Belichick decided to time warp us all back to the 1930s and had his quarterback throw the ball a total of three times. In that game, Johnson lined up on 49% of the total offensive plays and ended up being a critical part as the Patriots only moved the ball on the ground.
In week six of the 2021 season, the Patriots were having a tough time through the air against the Dallas Cowboys. Throughout the game there were a string of drives that ended in turnovers and after three back-to-back punts. Belichick had to do something as they were only down by six points with little time left on the clock.
In the clip below, Johnson is lined up on the left side of the offensive line, outside the tight end. Just before the snap Johnson begins to motion to the middle and then comes across the line of scrimmage with the left guard to lead the way through the C-gap.
This play tied as the longest run of the day.
On the very next play, the Patriots came out in the same look but in reverse. As Johnson went across the line of scrimmage, he picked up the most important player on the Cowboys defense who would have gotten to the ballcarrier first, Parsons.
Belichick decided to hand it off eight times during this 13 play drive, and eventually ending in a touchdown to put the Patriots up by one point. Even though they weren’t able to get the win, this drive allowed them to put the game in overtime and Johnson played a huge part in the rushing attack.
The Raiders, now coached by former New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, signed Johnson to a one-year deal in March after Belichick reduced the fullback position from his plans.
This point from Jakob Johnson was highlighted in today’s notebook.
A notable part of the Patriots’ offseason seems to be internal evaluation (and scheme alterations) aimed at getting more out of some of last year’s acquisitions (and others). https://t.co/XFM8EhnE2V pic.twitter.com/ohtC5Xnbws
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 20, 2022