Word out of Florham Park is that the New York Jets have placed fullback/H-Back Lex Hilliard on IR. Luckily, there is a potentially prototypical, West Coast H-back waiting in the wings to upgrade the unsung position. Enter: Tommy Bohanon.
Key to understanding Bohanon’s role as an H-Back, is understanding the system in which an H-Back flourishes. The West Coast Offense is an offensive philosophy that emphasizes short, quick passes that spread out the defense horizontally and draw the safeties into the box. This, in turn, opens up the deep pass and running lanes. The role of a traditional fullback in this offense is minimized but replaced, in part, by a H-Back.
An H-Back is essentially a fullback/tight-end hybrid. The H-Back can line up anywhere from the set-back position to slot receiver and is often asked to go in motion. The position of the H-Back at the snap is relative to blitz pick up or exposing mismatches in the passing game. His main responsibility is to pass protect and receive passes, both vital to a functioning West Coast Offense. Secondarily, an H-Back is asked to run block and carry the ball. The H-Back has been fittingly referred to as a “Swiss Army Knife” and adds a greater degree of flexibility to an offense. Recent examples of notable NFL H-Backs include Chris Cooley and James Casey.
The man in-line for the H-Back role in Jets’ offense is Tommy Bohanon, who was the Jets’ 7th round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He had been in a competition with incumbent, Hilliard, throughout training camp. Bohanon has impressed in all facets of his game and was on his way to beating out Hilliard before injuries caught up to the veteran. With Hilliard on IR, Bohanon’s path to becoming an impact player on offense is now unimpeded.
At 6’1″ and 246 lbs, Bohanon fits the prototypical size of an NFL H-Back. He played the role perfectly at Wake Forest where he accumulated 160 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, 405 receiving yards, and 7 receiving touchdowns. These stats show Bohanon’s versatility and are even more telling when considering he was used primarily as a blocker in his four years with the Deacons.
Bohanon has displayed versatility in his short tenure with the Jets; catching well in the flat, running for positive gains, lead blocking and pass protecting. In the 61 snaps Bohanon has taken in Green and White, the rookie has whiffed on a few blocks and given up a sack but shown potential with some key catches to keep the chains moving and a bone-crushing block on a Mark Sanchez touchdown pass.
Bohanon’s versatility and the lack of another player at the position have all but guaranteed him a spot on the roster. Expect to see Bohanon line up in the offset-I and both lead block and break out on play action. Also look for him in the slot or out wide as a possession or outlet receiver. ohanon may even see some time as the third down back because his pass blocking and pass catching ability will make his role, on any given snap, difficult to diagnose.
Expectations for #40 should be tempered considering Bohanon is a rookie playing a hard to track (albeit undervalued) position. However, Bohanon posses a versatile skill set that translates well to the H-Back position in the West Coast Offense that the Jets will run in 2013. You won’t have to try to hard to find him on game day, because he will be all over the field.