Next up on our tour around the Titans position by position as we head into the 2012 offseason is a look at the fullback spot.
For the sixth straight season, the man who occupied that fullback job was Ahmard Hall. After returning from a four-game suspension at the start of the season, he played the final twelve games, starting seven (all of them the Titans started a fullback in).
As has been the case his entire career, he was primarily a blocker and touched the ball rarely. Hall did carry the ball six times, the most since 2008, for a career-high 24 yards on the ground, but also tied his career low with nine receptions and set a new career low with 46 yards. He also continued his career pattern by fumbling once on those 15 touches, almost costing the Titans the season finale against the Texans.
Hall is not currently under contract for 2012, and will turn 33 during the 2012 season. If the Titans choose not to retain his production and locker room leadership, who might be able to fill his role if he does not return?
The first name that must be mentioned is Quinn Johnson. Acquired from the Packers at the cutdown date essentially for nothing, he unfortunately lived up to the mediocre description of his services, struggling to identify and make the right block on the man. When Hall returned from his suspension, the Titans waived Johnson, and I was happy to see him go. Late in the season, when Javon Ringer was placed on injured reserve, the Titans re-acquired Johnson off waivers from the Broncos but did not activate him again.
Johnson is currently under contract for 2012, and must be considered the favorite to win the fullback job if Hall does not return. About the only nice things I can say about Johnson are that he’s never fumbled, and he had a reasonable three receptions for 30 yards, including on a key fourth down conversion against the Ravens. If he’s the starting fullback in 2012, I’m hoping for a lot of singleback sets.
The other player on the roster listed at fullback is Will Ta’ufu’ou. The Titans signed him to a futures contract early in the offseason. The former Cal Bear spent parts of 2009 and 2010, plus training camp in 2011 with the Chicago Bears before spending most of 2011 on the Cleveland Browns practice squad. I know virtually nothing about him.
For the sake of completeness, it is worth mentioning that when Hall showed up on the injury report before Johnson was reacquired, the Titans noted Jamie Harper could see some snaps as a west coast-style fullback. As I don’t believe Harper has any blocking experience, I can’t see him moving from running back to fullback on a full-time basis or even permanent part-time basis.
Distressing as it is for me to contemplate, right now Quinn Johnson looks like the favorite to be the Titans’ starting fullback in 2012. While I’m far from opposed to the idea of moving on from Hall, nothing I’ve seen or read about Johnson’s play makes me think he could do even an adequate job at that. If it’s between Johnson and Hall, I hope the Titans retain Hall.
Ideally, though, I’d like to see the Titans find somebody else. If they want a more west coast-style fullback, Jacob Hester from the Chargers is a free agent who could fit the bill and also play special teams. A more realistic possibility, though, may be finding a rookie who could compete with Johnson and Ta’ufu’ou for the job.