Don’t Forget About Weaver


Amidst all the Jason Peters trade buzz and post draft praise, one of the most important offseason moves seems to have been lost in the shuffle. The signing of Leonard Weaver. I realize fullback isn’t the sexiest of positions, but after all the clamoring fans, myself included, did last season about the lack of a true lead blocker, I figured Weaver would be talked about a little more.

The national media, in particular, has all but ignored the acquisition, preferring to focus on the additions along the offensive line and at safety, as well as the promising, yet unproven, rookie class. How the new line meshes and who fills the void left by Dawkins’ exit are obviously key factors in determining success in 2009. However, Weaver may end up making the biggest impact in the long run.

Imagine being able to operate out of the I-Formation on a regular basis. This is something that was missing from last year’s woeful rushing attack. Thanks to the fine folks at PFW, I was able to pull last season’s team rushing stats. I knew the offense didn’t employ many I-Formation sets, but I was shocked to discover how infrequently they did. Look at the glaring results:

144 rushes, 467 yards, 3.2 apc, 3 TDs

That averages out to 9 plays per game over a 16-game schedule. Now, you may think that’s relatively normal for a pass-heavy offense. Fair point. But to truly see the disparity, look at the Giants‘ season stats:

243 rushes, 1072 yards, 4.4 apc, 11 TDs

More than double the yards and triple the scores. Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward did most of the damage. Paving the way was punishing fullback Madison Hedgecock. Of course the G-Men employ a run-first philosophy, but having a legit fullback and big, physical runners makes it easier to execute.

Wanna see something really pathetic? I pulled the I-Formation numbers for the 0-16 Lions. Brace yourselves:

201 rushes, 742 yards, 3.7 apc, 7 TDs

They put the Eagles to shame across the board. This must change in ’09. If you want to win ugly, grind-it-out nail-biters, these stats must improve. Hopefully, Weaver will be able to help turn a major weakness into a strength. For this to happen he must be an effective lead blocker in the I. Let’s peruse the Seahawks‘ stats from the last two seasons to see how “The Face Cleaver” fared:

2008: 176 carries, 714 yards, 4.1 apc, 6 TDs

2007: 238 carries, 882 yards, 3.7 apc, 3 TDs

Respectable. Not great, but better than the Birds’ totals from last year. The lack of a stud runner in Seattle the last two seasons should also be factored into the equation.

Will Reid call more I-Formation runs now that he has a true fullback? It remains to be seen, but history says yes. Going back to 2006 and 2007, when Thomas Tapeh was manning the position, the numbers looked as follows:

2007: 189 rushes, 915 yards, 4.8 apc, 7 TDs

2006: 163 rushes, 791 yards, 4.9 apc, 6 TDs

Tapeh took some heat during his days in midnight green, but I’m not sure it was justifiable. Nearly five yards per carry in his two seasons is excellent. You would have to conclude Weaver can do just as well, if not better, in the same role. All of this will be meaningless if Westbrook has hit the running back wall and McCoy struggles to pick up the offense. Fingers crossed at least one of them will be reliable. Whatever the case, don’t forget about Weaver.

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