Somehow, one of the major topics of conversations surrounding the Eagles leading up to Monday night's preseason game against the New England Patriots revolved around the fullback position. Was a fullback even necessary on the Eagles' roster? Could hard-pounding running back Chris Polk be an option at the position? Sure, Stanley Havili was the incumbent, but what about the versatile Emil Igwenagu or some unnamed veteran who might come free after league-wide roster cutdowns?
Well, following the Eagles' 27-17 victory over the Patriots, once again the job seems Havili's to lose. The 2011 seventh-round pick put on a very strong performance in the team's dress rehearsal. The highlight of Havili's night came on a 1st-and-10 from the Patriots' 15-yard-line when the fullback was given the ball for the first time this preseason.
Quarterback Nick Foles faked a quick pitch outside to LeSean McCoy before handing the ball inside to Havili, who paused to wait for a pulling Todd Herremans to clear a lane and then ran upfield all the way down to the 1-yard line. The only question following the play was whether Havili crossed the goal line before his knee touched down. Alas, Havili wasn't credited with his first NFL touchdown, but it was a promising play.
"It's just a pitch trap," Havili said, adding with a smile that he did think he reached the end zone. "The line did a great job and I should have scored.
"I think ball security's important and just hitting the hole whenever you get a chance and making plays. Whenever they call my name, however few times they do, I have to make the most of it."
Over the last two preseasons, Havili has five carries for 26 yards and one catch for 20 yards. In the Eagles' offense, it's important that fullback offers some upside with the ball in his hands. Of course, blocking is still the primary responsibility for the position.
In that vein, Havili was used as a lead blocker on a short McCoy touchdown run and also did his part in pass protection, with a chip on Danny Watkins' man standing out.
"It was good to get out there and get the ball in my hands and also block on the goal line, so today was a good day," Havili said, "just have to get better."
Finally, Havili showed his value on special teams, the final area in which the fullback needs to contribute. Havili said earlier in the week that he's currently a first-team member of all four phases of special teams, but punt coverage is where he made the standout play against the Patriots. On a punt late in the second quarter, Havili was the first man down the middle of the field and arrived just in time to tackle Patriots returner Brandon Bolden for no gain.
All in all, it was a night for Havili that could quiet the search for a fullback. The Eagles may already have their man.
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