Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Empty at Fullback; Team Looking Again for Help

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Empty at Fullback; Team Looking Again for Help

Article excerpt

Byline: Bart Hubbuch, Times-Union sports writer

Tom Coughlin said the Jaguars would do "the necessary searching" this week to replace injured fullback Patrick Washington.

Good luck.

Fullback is a declining position in the NFL. The number of quality players with the ability and the willingness to serve as a battering-ram lead blocker is dwindling.

Coughlin, who prefers using two tight ends instead of a fullback, is looking for fullback prospects after Washington was knocked out of the final two games of the season with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Washington, a second-year undrafted free agent, hurt his knee in Sunday's 29-15 victory at Cincinnati.

Washington has started each of the past two seasons, but Coughlin has shown little interest in the fullback position.

Coughlin let fullback Daimon Shelton leave for Chicago in free agency two years ago. Then, after a tepid competition in training camp between three undrafted rookies, Coughlin kept only Washington last year.

Coughlin signed veteran fullback Detron Smith last spring, but Smith (now with Indianapolis) was considered a special-teams player and didn't survive the final cut in September.

The only other potential fullback on the roster, second-year pro Dan Alexander, is considered more of a halfback than a fullback and has been inactive all but one game this year.

Even though Coughlin rarely employs a fullback, he was so desperate for a fullback after Washington's injury against Cincinnati that tight end Pete Mitchell filled the role several times in the second half.

"To the credit of Pete Mitchell, he went in and played fullback and displayed the kind of poise you would expect out of a veteran player of his caliber," Coughlin said. "He didn't miss a beat."

If only it were that simple for an NFL coach to simply plug in a fullback and not cause his team to miss a beat.

Finding a versatile fullback who can block and catch well has become a chore. …

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