The position of fullback is rapidly dwindling in today’s NFL. Alongside Patrick DiMarco, Pro Football Reference has fourteen other players listed that had at least one rushing attempt from the fullback spot. Right there next to DiMarco are such illustrious fullback names like “Ray-Ray McCloud.” The fact that the list is heavily peppered with “not-fullbacks” who took an occasional snap from the backfield shows exactly what the NFL thinks of the position. We’ll do our usual review for DiMarco, but the underlying question is less one of talent and more about seeing if there’s a need for a fullback at all.
If you followed the weekly snap counts, it’s no secret I felt Patrick DiMarco was underutilized. On a team struggling to protect their quarterback(s), a competent pass-protecting back felt like a good idea to me. DiMarco likes to step into his opponent rather than sitting back and he’s competent doing so. It didn’t impact this play with the ball exiting quickly, but DiMarco would have given Josh Allen extra time had he needed it.
A benefit of a fullback instead of a lineman can be that sharp pop to disrupt the pass rush followed by a safety-valve route. Josh Allen trips on the play, but if he hadn’t Patrick DiMarco was one of a few good options to throw to. As a note, this game will be heavily featured as DiMarco played more snaps in the season finale than he did in the next two highest games combined. To put it in perspective, the second game against the Miami Dolphins represents more than 1/5th of his season on offense.
DiMarco’s block keeps Chris Ivory’s initial lane wide enough to maintain good momentum. DiMarco stuffs Evander Hood. While this isn’t a household name, Hood is a 300+ pound defensive tackle who gains no ground on the 234-pound fullback. At times DiMarco seemed like the most stalwart lineman on the Buffalo Bills.
Sometimes the play design appeared to call for some misdirection, other times it appeared poor decision-making was at work. Either way, quite often Patrick DiMarco’s lead blocks weren’t followed. Looking at just what DiMarco did, it’s solid work.
I wouldn’t want to suggest DiMarco is flawless—sometimes he loses a match-up. After he makes a good decision to cut back and try to open the inside lane for LeSean McCoy, DiMarco doesn’t demonstrate his finest block. DiMarco maybe gets enough of his man where Shady would have been able to make it work. Had Wyatt Teller maintained his block a little better, we’d have known for sure.
Patrick DiMarco doesn’t give up an inch and actually drives Mike Hull back. DiMarco’s initial blocks look a lot like Chris Ivory’s with the quick pop to start things off. When blocks need to be maintained, DiMarco uses a little more hand-fighting as shown here. Neither should be necessarily known for that skill, but DiMarco is slightly more versatile when a longer block is needed.
Patrick DiMarco is a little smaller than what many might think of for a fullback. He’s also a bit quicker than many fullbacks and does a good job with his move block here. This wasn’t a staple for the Bills’ offense, but DiMarco seems capable of this role as well.
There’s not a lot that’s special about this play from DiMarco. He does a solid job slipping out and looking for the pass. His speed is fine and he takes a good angle once the ball is in his hand. He does seem adept at finding soft spots in the defense, but his passing grade has to be an incomplete. This play represents a full 25% of throws tossed DiMarco’s way this year. He caught three for 62 yards.
Here in one convenient clip is every single Patrick DiMarco rushing attempt in 2018. And this only happened because every running back was banged up.
Patrick DiMarco is a versatile back who can provide enhanced pass protection and safety-outlet options for a developing quarterback. This is in addition to lead blocking that’s ordinarily associated with the fullback position. That said, except for one game, the Brian Daboll offense doesn’t seem enamored with fullbacks. If a solid tight end or developmental prospect they’d like to tinker with is available, DiMarco’s days could be numbered in Buffalo. A big positive for DiMarco is that a potential replacement will need to slot cleanly into special teams play as well, where DiMarco did see more significant time.
I’ll close with a chart that’s likely nothing more than fun coincidence—a correlation rather than causation kinda deal. Still though, if I’m Patrick DiMarco’s agent, I’m likely making this thing into a banner. Quickly explained, the chart tracks DiMarco’s playing time each week along with the points scored by the team.