The New England Patriots recently completed their three-day long mandatory minicamp, and there are a lot of Training Camp Battles we see developing. Just to name a few, the wide receiver, secondary, running back, and defensive line battle should all be ones to keep an eye on.
But there is also an intriguing battle going on against one of the more forgotten positions on the football field. Nope, Zoltan Mesko is safe for now. It's actually the battle at fullback.
After years of not even employing a fullback, Bill Belichick decided to give it a try midway through last season. With the signing of Lousaka Polite, the team now had a man in the middle of the formation to provide an extra block or two for the primarily young corp of running backs. In 2012, Belichick appears to be willing to give this whole fullback thing a try for a full season.
This offseason, he went out and signed veterans Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta and brought back former practice squad member and military man Eric Kettani to form an intriguing three-way competition at the position. Each back has it's advantages, so let's take a quick glance at them:
Spencer Larsen: Signed Two-Year Contract w/New England.
The Patriots went out and signed the former Broncos fullback back on March 22. With Larsen, they are getting not just a fullback, but a versatile football player. In four seasons with Denver, Larsen was implored as a linebacker for his first two seasons, a fullback for his last two seasons. He was also on the team's special teams unit for all four seasons, and did quite well.
The combination of Larsen's versatility as both a blocker and a linebacker surely drew the eyes of Bill Belichick, who is notoriously known for putting in players on the opposite side of the ball (Mike Vrabel, Troy Brown, Julian Edelman). His special teams experience also feeds into the team's heavy emphasis on the unit. But he's no slouch at fullback. Larsen served as the team's starting fullback, where he helped starting running back Willis McGahee reach over 1,000 yards rushing. He's a football player that can perform at a high level all over the field, not just at fullback.
The key adjective for Larsen: Most Versatile
Tony Fiammetta: Signed One-Year Contract w/New England
Just days after signing Larsen, the Patriots went out and signed the former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys starting fullback on March 30. With the addition of Fiammetta, the Patriots will be getting a full-bread fullback who has the most experience at the position and has blocked for some of the best runners in the league in DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray; all perennial one-thousand yard rushers.
What I believe Fiammetta gives the Patriots is the best all-around fullback they've had in years. At 6-0 and 246 pounds, he's got a stout, but big body who can go out and get physical with any defender in the league. With the Patriots having a primarily young corp of backs, Fiammetta could fit into their plans at age 25. He's a young, talented fullback who could become one of the best at his position in the NFL, with guidance from his coaching staff.
The key adjective for Fiammetta: Most Talented
Eric Kettani: Signed One-Year Contract w/New England
After a few days of Super Bowl recovery, the Patriots brought back Eric Kettani after a tour of duty in the United States Navy. During last season's training camp, Kettani was a sure-fire bet to make the team's practice squad, but the team was forced to release him after he was called into duty by the Navy. While he's never seen action in an NFL game, he's got the most familiarity among the Patriots coaching staff among the trio of fullbacks.
Kettani was originally signed by New England as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Navy back in 2009. Ever since that moment, he was on the Pats' practice squad for the 09' and 10' seasons. With this being his fourth training camp with the team forthcoming, the 25-year old is the most familiar and knowledgeable of the Patriots system. He's also received high praise from Belichick and running back coach Ivan Fears in the past. That, and there's got to be an added level of toughness, being in the military and all.
The key adjective for Kettani: Most Familiar
So what say you, Pats Pulpit? Which fullback (if any) would you want on the 53-man roster this season?