The Seahawks have a trio of players who entered the league as undrafted free agents competing for a role as a fullback on the 2016 roster.
Fullback remains one of the most intriguing positions for the Seahawks as they began their second week of OTAs (Organized Team Activities).
Seattle didn’t re-sign either of its two fullbacks from last season, Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu. The two combined to play 28 percent of snaps last season — Tukuafu 19, Coleman nine — as the Seahawks used a fullback more than all but six other teams in the NFL.
That the Seahawks began OTAs with just one player on their roster listed as a fullback — undrafted rookie free agent Tani Tupou — made it easy to wonder about the future of the position and if Seattle’s apparent desire to use more empty and spread sets to make even greater use of Russell Wilson’s running and precision passing might mean the team was phasing it out.
Coach Pete Carroll, though, provided some clarity to what is going on at fullback when asked after last week’s OTA that was open to the media.
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Specifically, Carroll said that second-year player Brandon Cottom, listed as a tight end, is now again primarily a fullback, the position he played when he was with the team through training camp last season.
Carroll also said undrafted free agent running back Tre Madden of USC will continue to get a lot of work at fullback. And then there is Tupou, who played defensive tackle at Washington but is being transitioned to fullback by the Seahawks.
Carroll did not mention Brandin Bryant, who also has been listed as a fullback, but is now apparently solely a defensive tackle, the spot he played during last week’s OTA.
Said Carroll about the fullback spot: “Brandon Cottom is an unusual player. He was a tailback in college (at Purdue) so he has good instincts about running the football. He’s got excellent hands and he’s played some tight end for us too and he’s 270 pounds. So it’s an unusual package. He’s learning the spot, just like we have taught other guys over the years. Tre Madden has done a really nice job. He’s a very versatility football player. He’s tough, a good special teams guy. He’s done all the kinds of things hat you like out of the spot. Not quite as big (listed at 6-foot, 223) but he looks well-equipped. He’s going to be right in there battling. And Tupou, he’s a monster of a guy in there (6-1, 284). So we have seen how those guys fit so it’s a nice variety of guys at this point.’’
Special teams also will likely be a big factor in whether any of the three can make the final 53-man roster. Coleman was one of Seattle’s special teams standouts the last three seasons and played 57 percent of special teams snaps last season, fifth-most on the team and most of any offensive player (Tukuafu also had some regular special teams roles and played 18 percent of ST snaps).
The addition Nick Vannett as more of a blocking tight end also could mean the Seahawks could devise ways to have him handle what has often been asked of the fullbacks the last few years.
The goal right now for each of the three fullbacks is to create a tough decision for the Seahawks come cutdown time. A usual number of running backs to keep on a roster is five, which is what the Seahawks had at the beginning of last season (that rose to six later in the year when injuries hit).
With Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael back and Seattle having drafted three tailbacks, there already could be something of a logjam in the backfield.
But for the Seahawks, the more options the better as they put together their first opening day backfield without Marshawn Lynch since 2010.