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Don't be surprised to see Jaguars bring back the fullback

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars fans might see something in 2017 that they haven’t seen in a while: a fullback.

The Jaguars dumped the position from the roster after the 2014 season, choosing instead to use defensive lineman Tyson Alualu and then several tight ends as a fullback occasionally in certain formations. New head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, however, had fullbacks when they coached together in Syracuse and Buffalo, and it wouldn't be a stretch to see them bring it back to Jacksonville.

It’s not a bad idea, either, because the Jaguars have ranked as the league’s worst short-yardage rushing team in the past two seasons. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars ran the ball 73 times on third-and-2 or third-and-1 and converted just 34 first downs, and that 46.6-percent conversion rate was by far the worst in the league. The next closest team was Denver at 59.2 percent.

Not having a fullback isn’t the only reason the Jaguars struggled in short-yardage runs -- the offensive line and running backs share blame, too -- but it certainly was a factor. Alualu is 6-foot-3 and 309 pounds and tight end Ben Koyack is 6-5 and 258 pounds, and they did the best they could the few times the Jaguars decided to go with a fullback.

However, it was like asking Koyack to play defensive end. He has the size to do it and could do it on a play here or there, but he would not be effective at the spot if the Jaguars put him there full time.

Hackett’s offense used a fullback when he was Marrone’s offensive coordinator in Buffalo in 2013 and 2014. Frank Summers started 21 games and rushed for 63 yards and two touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 88 yards and one touchdown. The Bills also had C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and they finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2013 (144.6 yards per game), though that number dipped to 92.2 yards per game in 2014 because of a collarbone injury that limited Spiller to just five games and a groin injury that hampered Jackson for much of the season.

Marrone used a fullback as Syracuse’s head coach from 2009-12, too. There was only one fullback on the roster in 2009, but Marrone carried six in each of the next two seasons.

So how will the Jaguars add a fullback? There are few options in the draft -- Virginia Tech’s Sam Rogers and Florida State’s Freddie Stevenson seem to be atop most rankings -- but it would be surprising if the Jaguars used a pick in anything other than the sixth or seventh round on the position. There are options in free agency, including Atlanta’s Patrick DiMarco and New England’s James Develin, but it’s hard to see the Jaguars making that a priority.

The most likely route for adding a fullback would be signing an undrafted free agent or two, letting them compete in camp, and going with the best option.