OVERVIEW **The Eagles haven't had a lot of consistency at fullback over the years. But that figures to change with the addition of free agent Leonard Weaver, a true, versatile fullback who spent four productive seasons with the Seahawks.
While his primary role will be as the lead blocker for running back Brian Westbrook, the 6-foot, 242-pounder also gives the Eagles the kind of ball-toting threat at the position they haven't had since Kevin Turner from 1995-99 and more recently, Jon Ritchie, in 2003-04. Weaver could be used in a multitude of ways, including short-yardage looks from a one-back set, and he has the requisite blocking skills to set up and help Donovan McNabb in pass protection.
Weaver missed all of the 2006 season with an injury, and in the three years he played Weaver carried 80 times for 356 yards (4.4-yard average) and caught
60 passes for 547 yards.
The addition of Weaver means a return to the defensive side of the ball for veteran Dan Klecko, who showed improvement at fullback after he had opened the season as a defensive tackle. Meanhile, hometown product Kyle Eckel remains in the mix and will likely get a look at both halfback and at fullback during the spring and summer. Eckel, a midseason addition in 2008, rushed 24 times for 79 yards, including a pair of clutch third-and-1 conversions.
The revolving door at this position has included the likes of Ritchie, Cecil Martin, Josh Parry, Thomas Tapeh and then last year's combination of Tony Hunt and Klecko. Weaver, who inked a one-year deal, could be the answer at the position for 2009. At the very least, it offers the idea that fullback will once again become a position to watch with this football team.
Raised in the West Coast offense, Andy Reid has spent two second-day draft picks on this position during his time in Philadelphia.
In his very first draft in 1999, Reid tabbed Wisconsin product Cecil Martin in the sixth round. Martin opened holes in the running game for Duce Staley and also chipped in as a pass catcher. In fact, Martin's 24 receptions in 2001 marked the last time an Eagles fullback had more than 20 catches in a season.
In 2004, the Eagles selected Thomas Tapeh in the fifth round out of Minnesota. Unfortunately, Tapeh suffered a dislocated right hip late in his rookie season and missed the entire 2005 season. Tapeh battled back and served as Westbrook's lead blocker and caught an occasional pass during 2006 and 2007 campaigns before signing with the Vikings in free agency in 2008.
The rookie free agent pool has yielded players like Josh Parry (2004-05) and Jed Collins (2008). Parry spent time on the active roster and played in Super Bowl XXXIX, while Collins spent time on the practice squad.
Over the years the team has addressed this position both through the draft and via free agency. This year they opted for the latter and landed the 26-year-old Weaver, who signed a one-year deal. The Eagles could look to use another late-round pick at this position for a player to groom for the future.