When the Cincinnati Bengals watched a promising 2012 season end after the offense could only muster 13 points in a 19-13 loss to the Houston Texans, the coaching staff immediately began looking at ways to add more weapons to an offense that, outside of A.J. Green, was lacking any consistent weapons.
In order to upgrade from within, they began looking at scrapping the traditional fullback role that Chris Pressley and John Conner had played last year, and implementing an H-back into their offense in the form of second-year tight end Orson Charles.
The H-back, depending upon your system, has two very different purposes. In the power based game, teams like the Alabama Crimson Tide in college football use their H-back as another blocker. But most offenses use them as a “hybrid” player who can do a little bit of everything, but primarily operate as an added pass-catching threat.
You’ll see an H-back put his hand on the line and block zone, lineup in the backfield to block or run a pass route, or even flex outside of the tackle box, which often leaves him matched-up with a linebacker that he can typically beat in coverage. At the end of the day, an H-back is basically a tight end who’s able to give you more than what the position entails in the traditional sense.
There a lot of greater and more in-depth articles on the H-back, and a good one to read would be on the Football Outsiders and how they used both tight end Delanie Walker and fullback Bruce miller in these roles.