New Giants fullback Ryan D’Imperio is well aware of the depth that’s in front of him at his position. And while the 25-year old former Rutgers linebacker turned fullback, who was brought on board this summer to help shoulder some of the load at fullback while incumbent starter Henry Hynoski continues his recovery from offseason knee surgery, doesn’t know what the immediate future holds for him, he does know that he has an opportunity here to put some good highlights together on film for the league to consider.
D’Imperio shared some of his aspirations and some insight into his acclimation with me the other day.
Q: You moved from linebacker to fullback when you made it to the NFL. How did that move come about?
A: Well, I was drafted by Minnesota, seventh round, and they converted me into a fullback. They thought I could I pan out as a good fullback, so they made that decision and I was all for it.
Q: What do you like about playing fullback as opposed to linebacker?
A: It has its ins and outs. I had all that college experience as a linebacker so that helps me when I look at it from an offensive standpoint, looking at the defense. I kind of see and understand things a little more. As far as being a fullback, the collision is different. As a linebacker, you’re trying to create space where as a fullback, you’re trying to take that space away.
Q: Where do you think you are in your development as a fullback?
A: It’s tough to say exactly. I can catch the ball, I can get out the backfield. I’m still improving on blocking, that’s something that’s kind of new to me – I only have one full year of experience at it. It’s kind of like I’m a dynamic fullback that can do a bit of everything right now.
Q: Since you’re still relatively new to the position, have you watched film of other established fullbacks to gather tips and tricks to help you?
A: Absolutely. I’ve been trying to watch fullbacks that were in that organization before me. Here, I’ve watched a lot of what Henry (Hynoski) has done, and it’s great to have him in the classroom and on the field with me because he’s helped me out a lot. We watch film together so that when the coaches put a play with the fullback in, I can actually see how it’s supposed to be run.
Q: Is there a particular fullback whose style is one that you really want to blend into your game?
A: Not really. I try to take bits and pieces. There’s a different mentality with the fullback these days. It’s really not that downhill smash mouth fullback like it used to be. I kind of feel like it’s become more of a hybrid position. So when it comes to lead blocking, I like to watch guys like Vonta Leach. If more finesse is called for, then I watch a bunch of different guys.
Q: It’s been said that learning this offense’s playbook is so daunting enough, but with a fullback, who has to clean up the breakdowns in blocking ahead of him, I imagine that makes it even tougher. How have you been doing as far as learning that playbook, your assignments and those of the guys in front of you so you can be that safety valve as a blocker?
A: It was definitely a challenge. The day I got here, I had to learn everything from scratch. I didn’t have OTAs and stuff like that, but it’s coming along well. I’ve been with a couple different teams as far as what their playbook is like, so that kind of helps, but all in all, a lot of the different playbooks they kind of throw it together a bit. The terminology is the big difference. Everything goes together one way or another.
Q: Pass protection is a big question mark for this running backs group right now. André Brown can do it, David Wilson is getting better at it, and then there is the pass protection that the fullback has to do.
A: Right, pass blocking is an all-around thing. You have to pretty much master every aspect of it. It’s not just your job – you’re not taking care of the running back, you’re taking care of the quarterback, the franchise guy. So it’s extremely important and it’s something that I feel I’ve come a long way in doing it since I started to now. I just want to keep on improving on it.
Q: Both David and André have said that how a fullback lead blocks, the shoulder he uses, the type of blocking, etc., can influence how they attack the hole.
A: Right. Every offense is different so you kind of want to find the ins and outs. Some people might prefer that you be more of an inside leverage since some people might prefer you be more of an outside leverage. We have a great offensive coordinator and they know exactly what they want, so you really don’t need to go to the offensive line and everything. It’s always good to talk and find out what everyone likes.
Q: You mentioned you like to catch the ball and so far it seems like you’ve caught everything thrown your way. Were you a receiver at some point in high school?
A: Yeah, in high school I was a fullback and a Wing-T, which is kind of like a running back. But we really didn’t throw the ball much. I always played catch growing up.
Q: What about special teams?
A: I love special teams! I’ve been a bit everywhere. Again, I’m still learning the system and all that. But I love special teams. That’s my favorite part about football, just running down and trying to make a play, whether you’re on the offense or defense side of it. That’s what I really like to do.
Q: Let’s talk about stability. Obviously you’d like to catch on with a team and spend some time in one system instead of floating around the league. Does the fact that you’re not a sure thing to make this roster sit in the back of your mind?
A: No, you can’t think about it. You have to just worry about what you’re doing right now. As long as you do your best, everything will take care of itself in the end.
Q: What about establishing credibility and providing yourself all over again to a new coaching staff and new teammates?
A: Every team is run differently and things are done differently. For me, when you first get there, you want to learn how things are. You don’t want to pull something from another team and start trying to applying it here. It doesn’t work. You have to figure out how things are done here and what will work.