The Eagles had a very good fullback in Jon Ritchie a few years ago. Thomas Tapeh was serviceable, paving the way for Brian Westbrook's first 1,000-yard rushing season.
But in Leonard Weaver, one of the numerous off-season acquisitions, the Eagles have a big back who can run, a nimble receiver with good hands and a smart and efficient pass protector. That versatility was instilled in Weaver when he learned the position as a rookie free agent with the Seahawks in 2005.
"(Former Seattle head coach) Mike Holmgren used a fullback who could catch, block and be able to run. He used those things in Mack Strong and I think from my years I've had in the league being with Mack Strong and then having a coach like (former Seattle running backs coach) Stump Mitchell be able to groom me, I think it's a big plus because your versatility allows you to be able to do a lot more and that saves coaches a lot of times from thinking about certain things ... just let Leonard do it."
As talented as Weaver is, he's appreciative of the opportunities that he gets. In four games, he has just three rushing attempts for 15 yards and four receptions for 31 yards. But his last reception was a catch in the flat from Donovan McNabb that turned into a 20-yard touchdown, his first as an Eagle. In a tough economy, Weaver knows that you must be able to shoulder the added responsibility.
"My thing is I know I'm versatile. If something is taken away or we don't do a certain thing then I have to work on the other thing," Weaver said. "It's something that I think in my mind that you have to do a lot more individually to allow the coaches to say, 'You know what? This guy can not only do that, but he can do this. If we don't do that, then we know he can also do this.' It just opens up more doors."
The offense has been explosive in the first quarter of the season. The Eagles have the eighth-best offense in terms of yards per game, but are second in points with 31.8 per outing. On the ground, however, the Eagles have not been able to match the production from the season-opening win over Carolina. Against the Panthers, the Eagles had 185 rushing yards. In the three games since, they have 248 yards.
After gaining 64 yards on the ground against the Panthers, running back Brian Westbrook has 70 in two games since. Weaver preaches, and he's an ordained minister so he can literally, that we haven't seen Westbrook fully unleashed yet in 2009.
"I want to tell people out there that he hasn't slowed down," Weaver said. "First of all, we're still in the first quarter of the season. Things will slow down for him. This is a guy who has been for eight years. He's been a staple for this organization. He was 80 percent of this team's offense at one point and time. I don't think he's done at all and I don't think we've really reached the tip of the iceberg with Westbrook this season."
As Weaver's versatility is appreciated, he also likes the pliability of the Wildcat formation. It can be argued that the Wildcat takes away from the team's base running formation. Weaver said that the Wildcat presents so many challenges that other teams have to prepare for.
"I think versatility is very cool. You can line up in the Wildcat. You can line up in the I-formation," Weaver said. "(LeSean) McCoy broke a big one out of the I. Westbrook scored out of it. We may not be doing as much as people would like to see, but we're getting the job done. I think we're doing what we need to do in order to present problems for defenses and for them to not key in on certain things."
Another opportunity for getting the ground game going presents itself Sunday against the Raiders. Oakland is ranked 31st against the run this year.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 6:06 p.m., October 17