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Sunday Night Spotlight: Leonard Weaver

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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When he was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2005, former Carson-Newman tight end Leonard Weaver(notes) became a fullback, and his versatility impressed the team back when they had a functional offensive line. As the offense started to fall apart, Mike Holmgren and Matt Hasselbeck(notes) would use Weaver increasingly as a bailout option in short drops -- he caught 39 passes in 2007 and 20 in 2008. But a new coaching staff and less flexible roles for fullbacks and halfbacks under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp made Weaver expendable, and he signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in March.

The Eagles may have expected him to be a backup and roleplayer, but Weaver's made a name for himself lately. When the Eagles last faced the New York Giants on November 1, Weaver ran eight times for 75 yards and a touchdown against a Giants defense that struggled to stop the run against any opponent. Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, he caught two passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. This versatility is a hallmark of the Eagles' offense, where backs are asked to run, catch, and block in equal doses. Weaver is a perfect for in that offense, and at 6-0 and 242 pounds, he brings more power to the line than Philly's opponents might be used to.

In tonight's rematch against the Giants, watch for New York to continue recent defensive adjustments. Most recently, they've augmented their four-man fronts by bringing up a linebacker (frequently rookie Clint Sintim(notes)) and a safety (usually Aaron Rouse(notes)). This allows the G-men to tighten their inside splits and get more pressure along the line. The Eagles will counter with Weaver's cutback ability -- they're not a zone-blocking team per se, but they're very effective when they get slide protection going one way so that Weaver can cut back and bust through seams against the flow. The Eagles will hand off to him in one-back sets, have him head out to the flats out of the fullback slot in the I-formation, and ask him to block from either set. The Eagles have rushed for over 100 yards in each of their last three games, and as they head further into inclement weather and a hard playoff race, Weaver will be an important resource in several different ways.

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