Only two offenses lined up in 21 personnel on first down more than 30 percent of the time last season — the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins.
Five teams didn’t take a first-down snap with two running backs on the field and 22 teams leveraged 21 personnel on less than 10 percent of first-down plays. The value of a running back is under the microscope as players struggle to secure long-term deals, but coaches Mike McDaniel and Kyle Shanahan have players that drastically change the equation.
Alec Ingold was on the field for 39.55 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps last season. In San Fransisco, Kyle Juszczyk logged 47.45 percent of offensive snaps. The similarities are no surprise, considering McDaniel and Shanahan spent many years working together.
Ninth-year running back Raheem Mostert signed a two-year deal this offseason to remain in Miami after five seasons with the 49ers. On Wednesday, he explained what it’s like to share the field with some of the league’s top fullbacks.
“I mean obviously you see what’s going on with what I had in San Fran but also with Alec Ingold — He’s at the top of his game right now,” Mostert said. “If you see the way he gives those hits and is catching out of the backfield and he’s making all of these unbelievable plays, I give him nothing but credit just because I know what it looks like. I have a good fullback in front of me. He’s that guy.
“He’s the one that’s the down and dirty guy, the one that’s trying to do his best for the team and he’s going to put his body on the line no matter what. He accepts challenges, as you can tell, and to me, he conquers those challenges, whether it be small or big.”
Running backs — let alone fullbacks — aren’t popular in today’s NFL, but that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. averaged 4.9 rushing yards per attempt last season. Ingold was responsible for setting the tone.
“I feel like with the fullbacks right now with the game that we have and the offense that we have, they’re our eyes,” Mostert said. “That’s something that we use in the room. They’re the ones that see the hole before the hole opens up, and they’re the ones who have to hit those holes in order for us to hit them as well.
“They always say, ‘Let the fullback’s eyes be your eyes,’ and I truly believe in that.”