The NFL is a pass-first league, with offenses designed to gain chunks of yards through the air. The league likes the scoring and the highlights that come with pass-happy offensive systems, and teams have evolved into spread systems with three, four, five receiving options in routes. The additional receivers on the field has led to limited formations that include multiple running backs on the field. That limitation has turned the fullback position into a relic in the eyes of many, though there is plenty of evidence that a fullback can open up an offense.
Serving as an additional blocker in pass protection, a check-down option for the quarterback, or a lead blocker in a running play, the fullback can still be a key member of the offense. When the Dolphins used a seventh-round pick in 2019 to add Auburn fullback Chandler Cox, it appeared the team could be looking to fill that key role with a young player who could be an asset to a redesigned offense. New Miami head coach Brian Flores moved from the New England Patriots for the 2019 season, and he had seen the impact a player like James Develin could have from the fullback position. Now, he had a fullback in Miami as well.
In an offseason thrown into chaos by the coronavirus, the Dolphins - and the rest of the NFL - could have to make some tough roster decisions even before training camp opens. Could Cox find himself on the wrong side of the cut line, either before or during camp?
Cox averaged just eight snaps a game last season, with his high coming in Week 7, when he was on the field for 18 plays, or 25 percent of the offense’s snaps. Miami had their fullback, but did not utilize him as much as they potentially could have. Develin was injured early last year, missing most of the season, but to continue the comparison, in 2018, he averaged 24 snaps a game, playing in 32 percent of the snaps on the season and playing at least eight snaps in every game.
The Dolphins did not use Cox enough to say he is guaranteed a roster spot, and they did not give him any carries or target him in the passing game, giving multiple signs that he could be replaceable on the roster.
Miami could also have a replacement for him on the roster. When Develin was injured, the Patriots turned to linebacker Elandon Roberts to fill in on offense. This offseason, the Dolphins added Roberts to the roster. Could Miami look to move on from Cox, with the plan to two-way play Roberts when they want a fullback?
After just a year of being on the roster, are the Dolphins ready to move on from Cox? Is he on the roster bubble?