Both tight end and fullback were virtually non-existent positions in the New York Jets offense over the past two seasons. With the addition of offensive coordinator John Morton and a West Coast offense, both may be making a return. Below, we take a look at the two players battling to be the team’s fullback…
Julian Howsare. Anthony Firkser.
No Jet fan would be ridiculed for never having heard of either player before. Both have reasonable chances to make the 53-man roster, though. Howsare, who made the transition from practice squad linebacker to fullback last year, was an undrafted free agent signed in 2015. He was a third-team All-American as a defensive end in college, albeit at the Division 2 level. You can see highlights of him in college here.
He impressed the team enough last August that it cut Tommy Bohanon and elected to keep him to start the season. The Clarion product was released after two games, but that might have been due to the lack of need in then offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s offense.
Firkser’s transitioning to fullback after playing a tight end at Harvard. He caught 99 passes for 1559 yards and 14 touchdowns and has experiencing lining up as a wide receiver.
Give the rookie the edge for versatility. It’s part of the reason Matt Miller of Bleacher Report ranked him as the third best fullback in the draft.
While offensive coordinator at USC, John Morton’s starting fullback (Stanley Havili) had 22 catches for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Those are not overwhelming numbers, but it could be a sign that Morton wants an effective check down option at the position. It should be noted that Havili was considered to be dynamic as a fullback due to his receiving skills. Meanwhile, John Kuhn had 18 carries and 16 receptions for the Saints, where Morton was the wide receivers coach under Sean Payton, in 2016.
If they are looking for the better blocker, it is unclear who that will be. It’s a former tight end not lauded for that skill versus a former defensive end. Firkser demonstrated effort as a blocker in college, but he profiled more as a player who would seal off defenders than overpower them. Howsare does have more size and received positive reviews last summer for his blocking, however. Neither of them should be confused with former Jets fullback, The Terminator (John Conner), which may be a good thing.
Both players have solid measurables for the position. And their positional coach, Stump Mitchell, told Rich Cimini of ESPN that one of the two “will get the job done.” I cannot imagine a coach saying his players wouldn’t, though.
Height/Weight: 6 foot 2, 241 lbs
40 Yard Dash: 4.79 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.29 seconds
3 Cone Drill: 7.06 seconds
Vertical Jump: 31.5 inches
Broad Jump: 9’2”
Bench Press: 21 reps of 225 lbs
Height/Weight: 6 foot 3, 255 lbs
40 Yard Dash: 4.77 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.52 seconds
3 Cone Drill: 7.50 seconds
Vertical Jump: 32 inches
Broad Jump: 9’10”
Bench Press: 19 reps of 225 lbs
Another consideration for who wins the job will be special teams play. If the fullback is suspected to contribute roughly one catch a game outside of blocking, he better have special teams value as well. It has been well documented that the Jets coverage teams have been atrocious, and Howsare’s defensive background may provide help. Firkser did not contribute on special teams in college. As far as intangibles, the Harvard product won the Joe Restic award. It’s given to a Crimson player who displays leadership, scholarship, and integrity.
But if neither player wins the role, the Jets can take another look at Zach Line, who is still a free agent.