According to John Sigler of TheSaintsWire, Saints are utilizing the fullback position the third most in the NFL. Since the injury to Alvin Kamara, New Orleans has increased their use of 21 personnel, including 27% of snaps in Week 7 and 31% of snaps in Week 8. Zach Line is not a household name, his stats are nothing to write home about, but his impact on the game is one that deserves recognition.
Creating Mismatches with Personnel
In the Saints most recent win vs the Cardinals, Zach Line saw his highest snap count at 32. (43% of offensive snaps). I tweeted in October how I found it interesting the Saints were running Empty with Zach Line, Taysom Hill, and Zach Zenner as pass catchers. The Saints utilize these odd personnel groupings to create mismatches for their wide receivers.
In the clip above, Zach Line begins the play lined up wide. The Saints come out in 21 personnel, in response, the Cardinals come out with a 3-4-4 look. When motioned, Safety Budda Baker carries Line to the opposite side of the formation. This leaves wide receiver Austin Carr alone with two linebackers. While the Cardinals leave a large soft spot in the zone, Saints end up with a favorable match up giving Austin Carr the advantage.
Short Yardage Situations
Zach Line has only rushed the ball four times this season. However, 3 out of 4 of those rushes went for a 1st down. On the single play that did not result in a first down, Zach Line moved the ball to the inch yard line. Two plays later, Teddy Bridgewater hit Micheal Thomas on a shield slant for a New Orleans Saints touchdown. Line’s hard nose impact in short yard situation are exactly why you can’t look at 1.5 yards per carry and come to a conclusion.
Leading The Way
Football has seen the evolution of many positions and formations, from two halfbacks in the T formation to the modern day slot receiver in the spread offense. However, one position has remained constant… the fullback. Zach Line exemplifies the modern day fullback, leading the way for running backs while making an impact in short yardage situations. When he’s not running fullback options with Taysom Hill, Zach Line makes a big impact with his blocking.
Latavius Murray deserves a lot of credit for his play in the absence of Alvin Kamara. I wrote in July how I believed Murray would fill his role perfectly. Nevertheless, both the offensive line and Zach Line deserve their share of credit as well. Zach Line’s burst out of a three point stance gets him in position to block an untouched edge defender. This allows tight end Josh Hill to downblock ILB Joe Walker. Andrus Peat then pulls and blocks Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks. This play all begins trust that Zach Line can seal off the edge defender and create a hole for Murray on the power run.
Zach Line is certainty not the flashiest player. You aren’t going to open ESPN and see stats for him. However, he impacts the game in multiple ways that defenders are forced to game plan around, far more than the few clips and words I’ve attached. His presence plays a role alone. For that, we thank Zach Line for his impact in the game.