Continuing with the series of training camp competition, fullbacks are today's topic. The Oakland Raiders have one of the premier fullbacks in the NFL. Marcel Reece proved his worth a season ago, when injuries decimated the running back position and he filled in admirably.
Reece is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. He has the speed to blow by linebackers and the size and strength to bully cornerbacks and safeties. The former college wide receiver needs to be an integral part of the Raiders' offense attack. His most valuable asset to the Oakland offense is his pass catching ability. Very few, if any, fullbacks in the NFL can provide the skill set Reece brings. He caught 52 passes for 496 yards and a score last year. Despite those solid numbers, he did not reach his ultimate potential.
Reece is a part of the Raiders' offense that is not used consistently. He had monster games against Tampa Bay and New Orleans were he posted 90 or more yards receiving. Yet there were seven games where he caught two or less passes and was shut out two weeks with no catches. The Raiders have a valuable offensive weapon in Reece, but fail to use him to his maximum ability. New offensive coordinator Greg Olson will be tasked with keeping Reece productive and consistent this upcoming season. He has the versatility to line up in the backfield, at tight end, or split outside. The more places Reece finds himself on the field, the better for the Raiders.
With Reece a lock for the starting job, the Raiders have two other fullbacks competing for a roster spot. Remember, the Raiders kept Own Schmitt last season as a second fullback. Reece is getting better as a blocker, but that will never be his strong suit. So if the Raiders decide to keep an extra blocking back, Jamize Olawale and Jon Hoese are the candidates. Both are entering their second season. The Raiders signed Olawale last season from the Dallas Cowboys practice squad and he appeared in three games. He models his game after Reece because both played wide receiver in college. Olawale also has the ability to play some running back.
Hoese is more of a prototypical fullback. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers and spent some time on their practice squad. The decision for the Raiders will come down to need. If they feel like they need another fullback on the roster, one of these two players has a shot. Hoese and Olawale will have their work cut out for them trying to convince the Raiders to keep two players from a position being phased out in so many NFL offenses.
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