Quarterback Brian Hoyer already has one luxury he never enjoyed during his one season together with Kyle Shanahan with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.
The 49ers made Kyle Juszczyk the highest-paid fullback in the NFL last week. Truth be told, there is not a lot of competition for that honor. And there were certainly no candidates in Cleveland when Hoyer was there and Shanahan was the offensive coordinator.
“We didn’t have a fullback in Cleveland, and you watch how well Kyle (Shanahan) did with a fullback in Atlanta (with Patrick DiMarco),” Hoyer said. “To have a guy who can do more than just ram his head up in there and block, he can catch passes, he can go out and do other things.
“It’s a unique position because as football has evolved, the fullback position has been used less. And Kyle has found a way to use it in different ways. When you have a guy who has that skill set, you really make the defense declare what they want to do because of where he’s lined up and what he’s capable of doing.”
Juszczyk, who signed a reported four-year, $21 million free-agent contract, is a versatile player who wears a lot more hats than the stereotypical fullback. Juszczyk (pronounced YOOZ-check) thrives as pass-catcher with 78 receptions for 587 yards and four touchdowns in the past two seasons. He was selected to the Pro Bowl last season in his final season with the Baltimore Ravens.
“I forget who coined it, but we said, ‘Let’s not think of him as a fullback. He’s an OW.’ So, if you see OW, that stands for ‘offensive weapon,’ ” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “We saw an offensive weapon that this guy is thrilled to be able to use in a number of different capacities and I think that kind of is symbolic of our approach.”
Juszczyk said he will be ready to be deployed in a number of different positions and roles in the 49ers’ offense. The strengths and weaknesses of the 49ers’ opponents will usually determine how he will be featured on a week-to-week basis.
“My whole career, I’ve always been versatile and able to line up in many different positions,” said Juszczyk, who was an economics major at Harvard. “So I’m very comfortable, not just lining up behind the quarterback in the backfield, but I’m split out wide. I’ve caught passes in the slot. I’ve been a third-down protection back. I pride myself on doing it all.
“Each game plan is going to bring something different. Honestly, that’s what I’m used to. The last three years has been basically been that. Each week, I do something different. I just try to embrace whatever they give me and do the best I can with it.”