Derek Watt was perhaps the biggest question mark heading into training camp.
The Chargers haven’t had a true fullback on the roster since 2013, so uncertainty surrounded how the team would use the sixth-round pick out of Wisconsin. Furthermore, fullback is a position that thrives on physicality, so it’s hard to get a sense of how he would perform until the pads came on.
The early returns have been positive, as he’s earned praise from his coaches and teammates. While Watt already had a history with Melvin Gordon from their time together with the Badgers, he quickly earned the trust of the rest of the running backs on the roster.
“Derek came in strong,” Branden Oliver noted. “He picked up the offense so fast. Out of all the young guys on this roster, I feel he picked up the playbook the fastest. He is very athletic. He can run routes on the outside (and) at the same time, he is physical and intense. His mindset is to go get the job done regardless of the situation. I like that about him; I’m a fan. He is making my job easier. I like running with him at fullback.”
Head Coach Mike McCoy offered similar praise, specifically complimenting the fullback’s adaptability.
“He’s shown some good versatility whether it’s in pass protection, catching the ball or running routes. The staff has done a good job putting some things together in two-back. We have a system in place that has been here, and no matter who you have doing it, you want flexibility. He has shown he can do all of those things for us.”
Selected 198th overall, Watt appeared in 47 games with 24 starts during his tenure with the Badgers. In addition to paving the way for some big time performances, he rushed the ball 13 times for 60 yards and caught 30 passes for 309 yards and one touchdown.
From the moment he arrived at Chargers Park, the 6-3, 234-pounder bided his time until he could put on the pads and truly show his game.
“I was waiting to put the pads on,” he said. “You can look great in shorts and putting your hands on people in the offseason, but the big question mark people wondered was if I could hold up in the run game when the pads came on. It was my goal to show people I was able to do that, come out there and be physical. I feel pretty good with how I’ve been doing so far, but I know I need to get better.”
Overall, Watt knows he will be most counted on freeing up space for the team’s tailbacks. Acknowledging how the Bolts don’t run a ton of two-back sets, he noted he must make the most of the opportunities he does get to spring his teammate free. When it comes to making those blocks, he also explained how much works into making sure he and the halfback are on the same page.
“We don’t necessarily use two backs a ton. When you have a quarterback like Philip Rivers and some of the weapons that we have, you don’t need two backs. But there is a time and a place for it. I’m definitely trying to show I’m capable and that we need to incorporate it more. There is some versatility to it. We do a lot in the passing game where we motion out of the backfield or run routes out of there, and also pass protect. So there is a lot to know. And with the running backs, my relationship with all of them both on and off the field is great. It’s huge to have that chemistry. Melvin and I were just talking about how our footwork and steps are getting into a groove. Whoever is back there, we are reading the same thing, so I am just trying to be that lead backer for them.”
Watt isn’t the only fullback on the roster as he is competing with Navy product Chris Swain. Recognizing there is most likely only one spot on the final 53-man squad for a fullback, he maintains the two have had a healthy competition going.
“He is a great player, and we are both out there trying to earn the spot on the team. At the end of the day, we know what it is. We’re both capable of being here and we both want to be here.”