Andy Reid said Thursday that the Eagles need a fullback in his offense.
But could he use a tight end or a running back as the "fullback" rather than keep a traditional lead blocker -- one that may not see many snaps -- on the 53-man roster?
Reid has options if he doesn't see the benefit of keeping a traditional fullback. Many NFL teams are doing without the fullback. Last season, Eagles fullback Owen Schmitt lined up for only 174 of 1,036 snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The year before he was on the field for 352 of 968 snaps in 15 games.
Schmitt is gone. The Eagles only have two fullbacks -- Stanley Havili and Emil Igwenagu -- on their 90-man roster with three preseason games still to play. If either has a shot of making the team they have to do more than just block. Havili has shown he can contribute on special teams, Reid said.
"We saw this the last preseason game last year where he kind of got a feel on special teams," Reid said. "He can be a factor there.”
Havilli said that he's playing on all four special teams units -- kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return. Schmitt had only four carries and three catches last season, but he was one of the Eagles' more consistent performers on special teams last season.
"I think I've shown them that I can be effective on special teams," said Havilli, a 2011 seventh round draft pick.
Igwenagu, an undrafted rookie, has also taken snaps at tight end in training camp.
"I think Emil is a great football player and he's versatile, too," Havili said. "It's just he's more versatile playing tight end and I'm more versatile playing running back. It's just two different sides."
Still, it might not be enough for either to make the team. The Eagles may decide that their tight ends -- the team is likely to keep only two -- could handle the lead blocking chores. Havili estimated that 30-40 percent of run plays in the Eagles offense require a lead blocker.
Reid could see fit to keep four running backs and use one as a lead blocker. Rookie Chris Polk would be the most likely candidate. His specialty is in pass blocking and in picking up the blitz, but Polk is a much more advanced blocker than fellow rookie Bryce Brown at this time.
If the Eagles keep four running backs instead of three and a fullback, Brown and Polk will be expected to chip in on special teams. They have practiced there in camp but it remains to be seen how good they can be. In 2009, Leonard Weaver was the perfect fullback for the Eagles because he could run, catch and block on offense and he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty on special teams.
The jury is still out on whether Havili can be that guy, although he still appears to have the inside track on a roster spot.