"Did the Lions improve?" is our latest series analyzing the Detroit Lions' roster in comparison to their 7-9 2015 season. Next up, we look at the fullback position.
2015 FBs: Michael Burton, Emil Igwenagu (offseason)
2016 FBs: Michael Burton
Michael Burton and Emil Igwenagu had an intense camp battle in 2015, with both players showing they were fully capable of fullback duties. However, Burton ended up winning over the job, perhaps because of his youth. It looks like the Lions will enter camp in 2016 with only one fullback on the roster.
Did they improve?
This is a pretty silly question to ask, given the Lions only have one player on the roster, and it was the same player they had all last year. But the argument could be made that Burton now has a year under his belt and could be a much better player in his sophomore season.
The more important question is: does it matter? The Lions only utilized Burton on 22.3 percent of plays last year. In the offseason, it's pretty clear Detroit utilized a lot of resources to improve the running game and that may mean putting less value on a fullback going forward. Given the offensive line is now potentially stronger, that could result in less formations where fullback help is needed. Still, short-yardage situations will often call for a fullback, so Burton's role will not completely diminish. For what it's worth, the Patriots have often used a fullback, so Bob Quinn likely isn't against the idea.
What about compared to 2014?
2014 FBs: Jed Collins
The Lions had veteran Jed Collins as their primary fullback in 2014, using him about as often as they used Burton last year. Collins was an adequate player at the time, but the Lions are probably better off now with a younger, more promising option at fullback.