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Rookie Kyle Juszczyk In Fullback Spotlight

Posted Jun 11, 2013

The Ravens’ fourth-round pick is eager to show he can be a road grader like Vonta Leach.


It was the first play in 11-on-11 minicamp drills after Vonta Leach was waived Tuesday afternoon. Ray Rice lined up in the backfield with fullback Kyle Juszczyk right in front of him.

Let’s see what you got, rookie.

The handoff went to Rice and Juszczyk flowed to his right. He squared up veteran linebacker Daryl Smith in the hole and hit. The clap from the pads was loud enough that linebacker Jameel McClain, who was jogging on the sidelines, shouted out in exuberance.

“We’re in minicamp now,” Juszczyk said with a grin when asked about the hit.

“Coach [John] Harbaugh has been preaching that this is the beginning of our transition to training camp and that things are going to pick up a little bit. So I went ahead and picked it up.”

With Leach out of the picture, Juszczyk is now in the spotlight. He’s the only fullback on the Ravens roster, so he projects to be the likely starter.

“That’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “Nobody hopes to get drafted and be on the bench. So I couldn’t be happier. This is where I wanted to be, and I’ll just move forward from there.”

Juszczyk should add more wrinkles to the Ravens offense. On Tuesday, he said he lined up in the slot, wing and I-formation, versatility he loves showing.

While Leach caught 21 passes for 143 yards last year, Juszczyk will likely be more effective as a receiver. The rookie led Harvard with 52 catches for 706 yards last year, and recorded 22 career touchdowns. He showed soft hands and good burst on a few occasions during practice.

But by cutting Leach, the Ravens lost one of the most physical and effective road graders in the league.

Becoming a better lead blockier is the area where Juszczyk said he is working most to improve this offseason.

“That’s my biggest area to work at and get better,” he said. “But I feel like that’s something I can do. I’ve never been shy from contact. I embrace it. I’m looking forward to showing people I can grade some road as well.”

Juszczyk said he feels like he’s improved a lot already this offseason, and that it’s a matter of improving his leverage (getting lower than the opponent), hand placement and head placement.

“He’s exactly where we expected him to be,” Harbaugh said. “He’s smart, of course. He has picked up very quickly, which you would expect. You’ve seen him practice. He has skills. He has ball skills – good football player.”

“He should be able to do a good job once he gets some experience,” Run Game Coordinator Juan Castillo added. “That’s what we get training camp for.”

With Leach sitting out all but one week of the Ravens Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Juszczyk has already been taking a lot of snaps. So not much has changed for him in practice.

Now Juszczyk has to prove that the Ravens don’t need to bring in Leach, or somebody else, to do the job. General Manager Ozzie Newsome left the door open for a possible Leach return after he tested the free agent market.

“I try not to get involved with it and let it play out,” Juszczyk said. “Either way, I’m not going to change what I’m doing. I’m still going to put everything I’ve got into learning this offense, developing as a player and becoming the best player I can be, whether Vonta is here or not.”

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