Eyebrows raised in March 2017 when San Francisco signed Kyle Juszczyk to a four-year, $21 million contract, a record for a fullback.
Sure, he was effective for Baltimore with seasons of 19, 41, 37 and 33 catches. But the average value of $5.25 million was miles ahead of what was projected to be last year’s highest salary cap hit for a fullback ($2.3 million for Kansas City’s Anthony Sherman).
But flush with cap space and starting a floor-to-ceiling rebuild, the 49ers splurged and Juszczyk is now a major part of their offense.
Entering Sunday’s game against the Broncos, Juszczyk has played 501 offensive snaps (62.2 percent of the 49ers’ total), most in the league for a fullback. New England’s James Develin is second at 280 and the Broncos’ Andy Janovich is third (132). Juszczyk is a blocker and receiver, but not a rusher. He has 156 receptions and only 20 carries.
This year, Juszczyk’s 26 catches are third on the team and he has only six carries.
“Very unique,” Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods said of how the 49ers use Juszczyk. “(Coach) Kyle (Shanahan) is very unique in terms of how he moves people around and tries to create matchups and tells as far as what you’re doing defensively.”
Juszczyk’s presence gives the 49ers are a regular “21” personnel look (two backs-two receivers-one tight end) and could cause a problem for a team like the Broncos.
Do they stick with their base defense (three linemen/four linebackers) even though Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle are big parts of the passing game? Or do they use safeties Will Parks and/or Su’a Cravens to account for Juszczyk?
It is the only game this year the Broncos will have to ask and answer that question.
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