Take a look through the top photos from Monday's practice as the Chargers continue into week two of camp.
Whether right or wrong, a common perception throughout the NFL is that fullback is a dying position.
Derek Watt is aiming to dispel that notion, not only as a blocker, but with his running and receiving prowess as well.
Watt’s emergence as a reliable option in the passing game has been a pleasant surprise over the first practices games of training camp. The third-year fullback has made several clutch receptions, not only as an outlet option, but a downfield threat as well.
“Derek Watt has outstanding hands,” said Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn. “He’s a fullback in this league, but he can also run and catch. We love his versatility, and we’re trying to take advantage of that a little more this year.”
Take any day of practice and you’ll likely find at least one highlight of Watt making his presence felt as a receiver. One day in particular stands out in which he caught not one but two over-the-shoulder snares 15 yards downfield. Then there was his highlight-reel catch-and-run during the Blue-White Scrimmage in which he caught Philip Rivers’ pass and rumbled 40-yards down field.
Watt is well aware that fullbacks aren’t exactly the first option in the passing game; however, that hasn’t stopped him from delivering thus far.
“There’s not a lot of calls in the game plan for a fullback to make many plays in the passing game,” he admitted. “There are check downs and certain plays, and we’ve had a few wrinkles put in the offense this offseason and early in camp. So, when you have opportunities, you know you’ve got to make the most of those. Just show them that you can make those plays and that you can be reliable. I try to do the best I can at that. So far, they’ve been working well, and hopefully they stay in. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”
The Wisconsin product has tasted success in limited opportunities over his first two seasons, hauling in six passes for 118 yards. That’s good for a gaudy 19.2 average yards per reception, highlighted by a 53-yard catch and rumble in 2016 against the Denver Broncos.
No one is going to mistake Watt for the likes of Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and so on. Nonetheless, Watt’s potential emergence is a boon to the Bolts as they need someone else to step up in the passing game following Hunter Henry’s knee injury during OTAs.
Lynn believes the fullback can fill that role.
“Absolutely,” he said. “You have to make up for that absence. I think Virgil Green is doing a good job right now picking up where Hunter left off. We’ll spread the ball where we can have matchups. It’s a match up game. If we can get Derek on a linebacker because that’s a better matchup, then that’s what we are going to do.”
Keeping the defense guessing is vital in the NFL. While it’s no guarantee, seeing a fullback on the field is sometimes a telltale sign that a run is coming. However, should Watt emerge as the playmaker he’s shown hints of during training camp, then defenses must be on their heels whenever he’s in the backfield.
“When you have a fullback that can catch in the passing game, and affect the passing game, you can get the defense in certain personnel groupings that they aren’t necessarily expecting pass,” Watt explained. “You might get a linebacker covering you instead of a safety covering you, and you can have an advantage there. And it helps the offensive coordinator get some better matchups that he wants, so I want to show my versatility. Fullback, most people think hard blocking, all that kind of stuff. That’s obviously the biggest part of the position, but there definitely is an aspect of being a part of the passing game.”