Nick Bawden is showing signs of potential for New York Jets
During his days as an offensive assistant in San Francisco, now-New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur watched the 49ers repopularize the endangered fullback position through the stardom of Kyle Juszczyk. The man known as “Juice” reminded the world what a great fullback could do for an NFL offense – even in the modern era.
LaFleur has incorporated many aspects of his former team’s offensive identity into his vision for the Jets’ offense. The fullback position is included in that. While the Jets do not have a fullback who is used nearly as regularly as Juszczyk is used in San Francisco, LaFleur has deployed a fullback relatively frequently compared to most NFL teams in today’s day and age.
The Jets have lined a player up at fullback on 111 snaps this year, an average of 6.9 snaps per game.
Throughout the first half of the season, the Jets had various players lining up at fullback, but none of them were traditional fullbacks. Tight ends Trevon Wesco, Ryan Griffin, Tyler Kroft, and Daniel Brown would head into the backfield for fullback reps every once in a while, with Wesco leading the way as the team’s primary fullback.
Here is a look at the number of reps taken at fullback through the Jets’ first eight games:
- Trevon Wesco: 51
- Tyler Kroft: 9
- Ryan Griffin: 9
- Daniel Brown: 5
- La’Mical Perine: 1
Lining up at fullback on 51.5% of his offensive snaps through Week 9, Wesco was essentially a fullback in the first half of the season.
But in Week 10, a more suitable player came along to take the reigns at the fullback position: Nick Bawden.
Bawden is a pure fullback who switched to the position from quarterback after his freshman season at San Diego State. He was drafted by the Lions as a fullback in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL draft and spent three years with the team, playing 10 games in 2019.
The Lions waived Bawden in June 2021, and three months later, the Jets signed him to their practice squad. He debuted for the Jets on Nov. 14.
Since making his Jets debut against the Bills in Week 10, Bawden has taken over the majority of the fullback reps. He has taken 82.1% of the team’s fullback snaps over the past eight games. Griffin and Kroft made up the rest of those reps while Wesco has fully converted back to tight end since Bawden’s arrival.
Though Bawden’s sample size of reps is extremely small since joining the Jets – he is averaging only 6.0 offensive snaps per game over eight games – he is getting the job done when called upon. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound road-grader is currently one of the most effective fullbacks in the league on a per-snap basis.
Bawden has been creating a ton of space for the Jets’ run game. He owns a Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade of 86.4 this season, which ranks second-best among the 19 NFL fullbacks with at least 30 run-blocking snaps this season. Only Baltimore’s Patrick Ricard (88.3) sits above Bawden.
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Check out Bawden faking the block to the inside and then pivoting back outside to lead the end-around, sealing the edge defender inside to turn Braxton Berrios loose.
Nice block by Jets FB Nick Bawden on the end-around: pic.twitter.com/EocEVaM11e
— Fullback Watch (@FullbackWatch) January 2, 2022
Bawden has been making impactful blocks like that one at an incredibly frequent rate for how often he’s been in the game. With only a handful of reps per game, Bawden has been contributing a key block or two on a weekly basis.
Against Tampa Bay this past Sunday, Bawden played a season-high 13 snaps and contributed to a run game that dropped 150 yards on a Buccaneers defense that ranks third-best in preventing rushing yards this season (91.4 allowed per game).
A measly total of 48 offensive snaps over eight games is way too little to anoint Bawden as an incredible fullback just yet, but the early signs he’s shown are promising. Bawden has earned his way to the forefront of the Jets’ fullback competition in training camp next year.