There's something very cool about having a fullback on a football team. The Cardinals have Anthony Sherman; he's a rolling boulder with ears...and a brain.
In the truest sense of the word, "fullback," guys like Sherman have got know so much and then be capable of executing that knowledge. Other than the QB, nobody on the offense needs to understand more about said offense as the fullback. Like an offensive-lineman, Sherman needs to understand defensive fronts and how those defensive fronts change his run-blocking assignments and be able to adjust on the fly.
In addition, a fullback must have command of protection schemes, be able to adjust in an instant to what the OL is doing while keeping his eyes open at all times. Like receivers, Sherman needs to understand route combinations and where he belongs in those combinations, when he might be the hot- receiver and how his route impacts a given play. And it's not just understanding these components and knowing what to do and making the adjustments in a split-second, it's also about being capable of successfully executing your assignment as a crash-test-dummy.
Anthony Sherman does all of these things very well. So well the Cardinals might be expanding his role in 2012.
The Cardinals may use more two-back personnel groups, like Regular (2-Backs, 2-WRs, 1-TE), to move the ball this season. Regular used to be the base personnel group of the NFL. That is no longer the case, but it might be making a comeback and Anthony Sherman is in the middle of that maelstrom. The Cardinals ran the ball better out of regular than any other grouping and used the talents of Sherman well. Sherman is an excellent lead-blocker, catches the ball out of the backfield and can run the ball well enough to convert short-yardage and goal-line opportunities.
And no running back in the Cardinals corral holds up better in blitz pickup.
This is where Sherman's role might really expand, heralding a new trend in the critical confines of third-down in the NFL. The Cardinals are using Anthony Sherman as a third down back.
What? Shotgun? Four-wides? Third & obvious?
Traditionally, third down backs looked more like LaRod Stephens-Howling than Anthony Sherman. Third down backs have been more of a receiver coming out of the backfield than a runner -- and certainly didn't look like Sherman! But because of complex blitz packages and fire zones, the NFL may be looking to super-size the position. Teams may need a third down back that can hold up in protection, while doing all the things a traditional third down back has done in the past.
LaRod Stephens-Howling -- the Hyphen -- will still get the majority of reps on third & obvious, but Anthony Sherman and the Arizona Cardinals may have another option on third-down: Tank Personnel.