Aaron Ripkowski: Continuing the Green Bay Packers Fullback Legacy

Nobody’s talking about Aaron Ripkowski. Perhaps it’s because he’s a dying breed, or rather, he’s playing a dying position. Fewer and fewer NFL franchises actually employ a fullback. Gone are the days when every team had at least one of them to line up in an I-formation. The Green Bay Packers, though, love their fullbacks and stick them up on their very own pedestal. As a matter of fact, having a fullback that represents the heart of the team has become their “thing.” Historically, it’s been the likes of Ted FritschClark Hinkle, Jim Taylor, John Brockington, and William Henderson. Coach Mike McCarthy has made a point of keeping at least one (preferably two) fullback on the Packers’ roster. More recently it was John Kuhn who served as Aaron Rodgers personal bodyguard for nine seasons before passing the torch to Ripkowski.  Presumably Ripkowski will be on the Packer roster again this season.

Aaron Ripkowski: Continuing the Green Bay Packers Fullback Legacy

Fullback Position, Aaron Ripkowski Style

Using a fullback, as opposed to tight ends, means being able to make runs to either side of the line. Today, though, the fullback position is all about blocking. Hitting the opponent over and over and over again is a fullback’s bread and butter. Ripkowski impressed the scouts playing fullback for the Oklahoma Sooners. Back then, he was a very efficient run blocker in one of the most effective offensive formations in the Big 12 in recent time, the Sooners “Belldozer” formation. The Packers picked him up in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. With Kuhn’s exit from the team, Ripkowski found a way to fill the veteran’s shoes. But while the fullback typically fills that blocking role, as opposed to a rushing or receiving one, Ripkowski has become known for his ability to not only carry the ball, but to continue for extra yards after contact.

Special Teams Key

Hopefully Ripkowski will continue to provide consistency in the backfield this season, too. In terms of per play effectiveness, the Ripkowski, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jeff Janis line has done exceedingly well to date. Ripkowski gives the offense an advantage the team needs, that edge, or the much needed upper hand. Just as importantly, much like his predecessors, he’s grown into the guy that epitomizes the Green Bay Packers. This is not to say he’s never slipped up. During that miserable 44-21 loss against Atlanta in the NFC Championship last season, Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins stripped Ripkowski of the ball and recovered the fumble in the Falcons’ end zone. That’s the kind of mishap fans won’t soon forget, but players mature and learn from mistakes. It is unlikely that Ripkowski would not have learned from that scenario. Instead he seems to be focusing on becoming a key special teams contributor.

Changes to the Packers Depth Chart

Ripkowski’s best game last season was against the Detroit Lions, when he rushed for 61 yards in week 17. He caught a touchdown pass in that game as well. That fumble against Atlanta notwithstanding, he finished the year very well. Coach McCarthy has an opportunity in Ripkowski, who’s clearly already won Aaron Rodgers – and the fan base – over. Ty Mongomery will more than likely to be a starter this season. Beyond that, McCarthy has five rookies (three of whom are draft picks) fighting for spots on the depth chart. Ripkowski sits in prime position to play a big role this upcoming season. McCarthy will likely want to utilize his versatility even more now. In the meantime, Ripkowski himself seems ready to step up not just as player, but as a leader. Perhaps this will be the year when the trusty old I-formation makes a triumphant return to the NFL?