Kyle Juszczyk Impressing As Lead Blocker


Kyle Juszczyk was in Tampa Bay when a Buccaneers linebacker told him he was "too small to be on the field, too small to be a fullback in the NFL."

A couple plays later, Juszczyk hammered the same linebacker, Danny Lansanah, on an isolation block near the goal line, paving the way for a 4-yard touchdown run by Bernard Pierce.

"I made sure to go let him know just how little I was," Juszczyk said with a chuckle.

Juszczyk came into the NFL as a hybrid more known for his pass catching than blocking. The blocking side of his position was almost entirely new.

But in his first season as the starter taking over for former Pro Bowler Vonta Leach, Juszczyk has delivered as a battering ram in the Ravens' rejuvenated rushing attack.

"Kyle has done a really good job," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"He's hammering it up in there very well, and he has made a lot of key blocks for us inside. He has become I'd say one of the top blockers in that position in the league right now in just his second year."

Juszczyk is rated as the fourth-best fullback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He's second in the AFC behind Kansas City's Anthony Sherman. Juszczyk's blocking grade ranks fifth in the league.

After ranking last in the league in average yards per attempt last year, the Ravens are tied for eighth in that category this season (4.4 yards). And while running back Justin Forsett and the offensive line have gotten much of that credit, Juszczyk deserves some, too.

"It's been night and day from last year," Juszczyk said of his blocking. "That mostly comes from my confidence. I'm a lot more confident out there. [Running Backs Coach Thomas] Hammock has done a really good job with me on body positioning and blocking techniques."

Juszczyk also had one year of tutelage under Leach's guidance as a rookie last year, which helped. Leach has not been picked up by another team and had a chance to watch Juszczyk as he was at Sunday's game against the Titans.

"It was all new to [Juszczyk] last year," Harbaugh said. "He learned from Vonta Leach. He had a chance to watch Vonta, who is one of the best ever, so it was good for him."

Juszczyk hasn't lost his touch as a receiving weapon either. He lines up all over the Ravens formation, including at wide receiver, and is good for adding some deception. He hasn't gotten the ball as much as some fans and pundits expected, but he still leads all fullbacks with 13 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown.

"If Joe weren't such a downfield quarterback – I feel like he's always looking for the big play, which is a good thing – I may get a few more targets," Juszczyk said.

"Joe's not looking for the simple check down for 4 or 5 yards. He's looking to make big plays and score touchdowns, which I can totally understand. But I always tell him that if he ever changes his mind, I'm there waiting for him in the flats."

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