Note from the editor: In Chip Kelly’s press conference today, Kelly said that the Eagles valued the versatility of newly signed James Casey, and offered up the name of the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez as a player who had similar versatility. Hernandez plays the “F-back” position in the Patriots’ offense. My friend Refael Vela over at Cowboys Nation is something of an F-back aficionado, and has written extensively about the position. Here’s a great breakdown of the F-back position by Raf. Since he runs a Cowboys blog, it’s tailored to Dallas, but it’s easy enough to apply to the Eagles.
Rafael also did a film breakdown of one drive the Patriots had against the Dolphins in 2011, and how Hernandez was moved all over the place, like the queen on a chess board. This is the value of an F-back in a fast paced offense. On one play, you can line up Casey as the FB in the I-formation. On the next you can line him up in the slot. On the next, you can split him out wide. This forces the defense to adjust on the fly, and creates mismatches. The following is Raf’s work:
Let’s look at one series the Patriots ran against the Dolphins in the ’11 opener to see how Gronkowski and Hernandez work together. Here are five stills showing the formations on New England’s opening drive, which resulted in a touchdown. The first thing to note is the role each plays. Gronkowski is always the Y. Sometimes he’s next to a tackle. Sometimes he’s flexed into the slot. He’s always on the line.
Hernandez always plays the F-back. Even though the Patriots are a throwing team, you never see a 3-wideout set in this sequence. The team either uses the 12 package, with one running back, the two tight ends, and two receivers, or the heavy 13 set, with three tight ends and one wideout.
On the opening play of the sequence, Hernandez (81) lines up on the wing, flanking Gronkowski (87) giving the Pats a power side on the right:
On the next play the Pats go three tight, and put Hernandez in the right slot, between tight end Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. Hernandez motions towards the line and cracks down on the outside linebacker, while BenJarvis Green-Ellis tries a toss outside of Hernandez’ block: