LANDOVER, Md. — Fullbacks don’t really go viral.
At least, they don’t do so in the same way that wide receivers, running backs or other position playersoften do. Their ball-carrying duties are rare and lie mostly secondary to less-noticeable responsibilities, like pass protection and providing run blocking ahead of running backs.
So when Andy Janovich paved the way for Royce Freeman and Emmanuel Sanders on their touchdowns in the first half and received some chatter on Twitter for it, it was a little out of the ordinary.
But the reticent and unflappable third-year fullback isn’t one to bask in that attention. His position, by its nature, is unglamorous, and he embraces that spirit.
“That’s just what they ask me to do,” Janovich said after Friday’s game. “Whether it’s something that people don’t see don’t care about, don’t talk about, it doesn’t really matter to me. I just know my role on the team and I’m going to go out there and do whatever is asked of me.”
Perhaps more interesting to him, then, may be the appreciation his teammates had for his performance on those two plays.
On the first, Freeman’s touchdown run, Janovich picked up linebacker Zach Vigil, who was in position to end the play early behind the line of scrimmage. Instead, Janovich wrapped him up and sealed him out of reach Freeman, who proceeded to split the Redskins’ defense for a 24-yard touchdown.
Two drives later, during a 75-yard drive, Janovich again capped the scoring possession with a game-changing block. As Sanders turned upfield on the reverse play from 27 yards out, Janovich took safety D.J. Swearinger out of Sanders’ path to the end zone with a crushing cut block.
“What a great block by Andy, cutting that guy, chopping him down,” Sanders said. “I ended up going inside. I know everybody was like, ‘No, don’t go inside! Go outside!’ But I ended up going inside, made a play on the safety and Courtland made a great block down the field and I was able to get in the end zone. Really it was just great blocking. All I had to do was run it in. Credit to those guys.”
Fullbacks have become more uncommon as the league has evolved away from power running, but fullbacks like Janovich — with his ability to correctly and consistently make game-breaking blocks like those, not to mention his ability to run the ball and special-teams skills — are even more rare.
With five field goals against Washington, kicker Brandon McManus clearly seems to be ready for the regular season.
McManus’ efforts included two field goals from 50 yards or beyond (50 and 56), and the final four ensured that the Broncos would score on each of their second-half possessions, excluding the kneeldowns at the end of the game.
More than anything, McManus seemed to be pleased that the trajectory of his performance since the start of training camp has continue to rise.
“Pretty pleased,” McManus said. “I’ve had some days in the beginning of training camp [when] I didn’t do too well. ... Since the beginning, I’ve really hit a stride and really performed pretty well.”
One of the biggest transitions for McManus and the field-goal unit has been getting new punter Marquette King comfortable with holding for a right-footed kicker. In Oakland, King held only for lefties Sebastian Janikowski and Giorgio Tavecchio. But with King’s hard work, it has been a smooth transition so far.
“He’s done great,” McManus said. “He came over and he was obviously holding for a lefty ever since he joined the NFL. It’s a lot different catching the ball, seeing the ball, coming off from the snapper, using different hands to hold and spin the ball. He’s done a great job, really worked hard. He probably practices 50 JUGS [machine] snaps every practice before we get out there. He does a great job and has worked hard on it.”
After all that work, the kicking unit engineered a performance it hopes to recreate throughout the regular season and one that the team’s head coach expects.
“That’s his job,” Head Coach Vance Joseph said. “He can be a special weapon for us. What B-Mac did tonight, that’s what we expected."
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Days after signing with Washington following injuries to running backs Derrius Guice, Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, star running back Adrian Peterson made his debut in Friday’s game against the Broncos, showcasing the elusiveness and vision that made him so dangerous over the past 12 years.
“He’s a great back,” defensive end Adam Gotsis said. “He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s just another back that we need to stop. We know he’s going to come in and he’s a true pro and he’s going to run hard. So the better job we do up front, the better the team can be the rest of the game and be in better situations.”
Peterson did most of his work between the tackles, but he broke free for first downs on runs of 13 and 15 yards in the first half by bouncing to the outside.
“Adrian Peterson had a few good runs today,” Shane Ray said. “We just need to tighten up. Preseason is for seeing those things. It’s not practice, but it’s like practice. You are able to evaluate everybody and see what guys are doing. Of course, there are always things we can get better at and the run game is one of them tonight. We are going to build on what we are good at, and that’s hitting the quarterback and making plays and tighten up more."
Peterson was a hard player for the Broncos to corral in the first half, but that didn’t mean they weren’t able mount a great defensive showing anyway. Aside from those two first downs, the defense largely bottled him up for short gains. And when they faced third downs, they held Peterson and the Redskins to zero third-down conversions on seven first-half attempts.
“They played well,” Joseph said. “Outside of the early run issues with Adrian — I mean he popped a couple of runs on us, which we don’t like, but we won third downs and that stopped the drives. They were one for eleven on third downs and that’s the key to playing great defense. Once you get them in the third down, you have to get off the field and that we accomplished tonight.”