Lorig adds more versatility to offense

METAIRIE, La. -- Erik Lorig's most defining trait? His versatility.

The New Orleans Saints' new fullback actually began his career as a defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after playing both defensive end and tight end at Stanford. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is also a special teams asset.

But what will be most intriguing is to see how creative Saints coach Sean Payton decides to use Lorig as a chess piece in the New Orleans' versatile offense.

With Lorig's bigger frame, he could potentially shift from fullback to tight end or vice versa in different formations to try and create mismatches -- something Payton loves to do.

When asked what he feels is his "niche," Lorig said, "I think I can block. I think I can catch. I think I can pass protect. I can do a little bit of everything, and I want to do it at a high level. …

"In this offense, any type of versatility you can offer whether it is playing different positions on the field ... being wide or being in the backfield, all of that is definitely applicable."

So far, the Saints haven't gotten too exotic with their formations during organized team activities and minicamp. But we have seen a few glimpses of Lorig catching passes in the flat out of the backfield and showing fluidity while turning upfield to run. That's something the Saints did on occasion with former fullback Jed Collins, as well.

Lorig's taller frame and versatility are likely big reasons why the Saints decided to sign Lorig and part ways with Collins in free agency. But Payton stressed it was Lorig's skill set as a blocking fullback, first and foremost, that attracted the Saints to him.

Payton said the Saints' scouts and coaches saw Lorig quite a bit last year because they watched a lot of Tampa Bay film while scouting their upcoming opponents during the season.

"It just seemed like we were following Tampa either a week later or two to three weeks later. Nonetheless, they were in the cut-ups (that we watched). And the last half of the season, they ran the ball as well as anyone in the NFL,” Payton said. "I don't know statistically what their numbers were, but we felt like every time we put their offensive tape on, we saw a quarterback that was getting better, an offensive line, and a fullback.

"We really didn't know much about him. We did our offseason homework like we would in free agency, and then you start going back and seeing that he was (a defensive end) converted to fullback. He's a little bigger in stature, so when you watch him play he's very physical. I don't want to say there was a wish list, but it was (a thought that), ‘Let's pay attention and let's see if we can get him on a visit.'

"He and I share the same agent (Don Yee), which was just coincidence. It was interesting how the process worked out, and we are real pleased with how he's progressed. He's big, he's physical, he can catch the football. He's an interesting player, and when you look at his size and some of the production he had last year ... and he's young.”

In four seasons with Tampa Bay -- three of them as a full-time fullback -- Lorig has no rushing attempts and a total of 30 receptions for 193 yards and one touchdown. He played in 37 percent of the Buccaneers' offensive snaps last year, which is almost the exact same ratio as Collins' playing time in New Orleans.