For the second straight week, the 6-foot-2 bruiser out of San Diego State was utilized as a practice squad elevation to assist a Jets rushing attack that has struggled this season. Bawden didn’t get many opportunities with his team down big in Week 10, but he took advantage of the limited reps in Week 11 providing a stellar outing with moments that were reminiscent of San Francisco 49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk.
On November 24, ESPN’s Rich Cimini announced that Bawden has earned a role on the active roster for the time being.
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Bawden’s Big Day
According to Pro Football Focus, Bawden was borderline elite on Sunday with an 89.9 grade on offense and a 91.7 as a run-blocker.
He also snagged a 20-yard first down reception off an impressive route where he lined up in a power-slot role. The whole play was a thing of beauty from offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and Bawden executed it to perfection, proving he’s not just some blocker with hands of stone.
The fullback’s usage was intriguing. Bawden actually lined up in the slot twice and out wide twice according to PFF, while playing the standard backfield FB role four times.
When putting him out wide or in the slot, LaFleur masked him as a blocker on jet-sweeps, end-around runs, or bubble screens to Elijah Moore in the case above. We’ve also seen Jeff Smith and Braxton Berrios utilized on trick plays like this in the past.
With Bawden’s ability as a space blocker and a receiver, he provides a unique play-action target or RPO (run-pass option). I mentioned Juszczyk in the open because that’s exactly how Kyle Shanahan uses the dynamic fullback in San Fran.
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Where He Came From & What His Emergence Means
Before joining the Jets practice squad, Bawden began as a former seventh-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2018. Unfortunately, the fullback tore his ACL during his rookie camp and didn’t end up playing until 2019.
From there, the San Diego State product managed 10 lackluster games with Detroit before landing on the injured reserve once again with another knee injury. He was stuck on IR for the remainder of 2019 and the entirety of 2020. Bawden was then cut by the Lions in June of 2021 after a new coaching regime took over.
His emergence definitely puts the pressure on tight end Trevon Wesco, who attempted a failed conversion to fullback this offseason.
With Tyler Kroft on injured reserve, the former Mike Maccagnan fourth-rounder has been able to keep his job for the moment, finding a role as a blocking tight end in LaFleur’s offense. You have to wonder how long that will last, however.
The Jets are expected to bolster the tight end position in 2022. If Bawden takes over as the primary hybrid-fullback in this system, Wesco’s value as a subpar in-line blocker becomes extremely expendable.
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