James Develin – The return of the fullback to New England

James Develin has brought the fullback position back to New England in recent years. In this article I will show some of the ways the Patriots used Develin against the Bengals, and how he opened up holes in the running game and helped the offense move the chains.

Yellow lines are blocks in the pictures bellow, Red lines are ball carriers, and Black lines are fakes.

Goal line inside run

Personnel: 23 (2 rb, 3 te)
Formation: I formation unbalanced left
Defense: 5-5-1

Q1 10;06 tv pic

Before the play tight end Hoomanawanui is motioned from the left to the right side. At the snap the Patriots guards and tackles double team their defensive tackles, who are both lined up in the B gaps, blocking them outwards and away from the play. The center Bryan Stork blocks the nose tackle to the right. James Develin(FB) attacks straight towards the A gap on the left side of the line. Ridley follows Develin and attacks the open inside gap.

q1 10;06 Pic 1

The defense read run from the linemen run blocking forward, Brady turning his back against the defense, and the running backs quickly attacking the line. #51 in the Bengals quickly attacks his right A gap where the play is going and meets Develin at the line of the end zone, but Develin gets his pad level lower than the linebacker and because of that and his power he gets the advantage in the block, pushing the linebacker back into the end zone. Ridley runs behind him and into the end zone.


This is a simple blocking scheme that relies on power and good blocks rather than funky schemes to trick the defense. It’s all about pushing the defenders out of the A gap and having Develin get push on the linebacker who will meet him in the hole. A simple, but very well executed play from the offense.

Fullback run on third and short

Personnel: 22 (2 rb, 2 te)
Formation: Off-set I, unbalanced line to the right
Defense: 4-3, DL rotated to weak side, LB to strong

Here the Patriots are in a short yardage situation on the first drive with 3rd and 1 to go. Before the snap the wingback is motioned from the left side to the right, creating a strong right side. The Bengals respond to the motion by shifting their Linebackers to the Patriots right side, but does not follow the motion with a man.

Q1 11;42 run

At the snaps everyone on the OL zone blocks to the right. Develin(red line) aims at the left A gap and gets a handoff to the weak side of the line. Ridley(black line) fakes an outside stretch play to the strong side of the formation. The left tight end misses the block on Bengals left end(#95), but Develin has the advantage from going low and keeping his feet going, getting the push forward and the needed yard. Even if the refs gave him a bad spot and said he was short, when he was well over the needed yard.

Inside run-Gif

The success of this play starts with the motion which moves the linebackers from the play. Combined with them reading the fake from Ridley and the direction of the blocks on the line, making them take their first read step to their left, away from the play. Because of the short yardage needed the linebackers have already taken themselves out of the play with the first step to the wrong side.

Off-set I wham block

Personnel: 20 (2rb, 0 te)
Formation: Off-set I to the left, tight doubles left
Defense: 4-2 nickel rotated to strong side

Patriots have Vereen in the game. Who is faster and quicker than Ridley, but less physical. The offense starts with Develin to the right side of the formation, but motions him to the left side before the snap. The Bengals adjust by shifting the linebackers a step to the new strong side, but leaves the DL shifted to what is now weak side.

Q2 4;29 Wham

The plan here is to create a gap for the running back between the center and tackle on the left side. The key part here is the block by Develin. The center and guard will let the nose tackle go, so they can block the two linebackers. Develin takes aim at the location where the center started, and blocks the nose from the side. His block opens up a wide lane for Vereen to run through. Vereen then makes a good cut when he reads Connollys(LG) block on the linebacker and gets a good gain.

Wham all-22

Here is the same play from the backfield

Wham backfield

Develin did a good job when he blocked against the Bengals. For the most part he moved the blocked defender far enough and kept him occupied long enough for the running back to pass him. When he meets a linebacker or a lineman he usually hits them with enough force that they can’t get off the block right away and it freezes them in the spot. It will be interesting to see if the combination of Ridley and Develin will be used more this season as a way to take the load off of Brady, the receivers, and the line in pass blocking. It certainly worked against the Bengals.

Credits to NFL Gamepass for the pictures and videos


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