Something short as I shrug off this sick and figure out how I'm going to stretch 2009 season previews over 10 months.
In 2008, Leonard Weaver was a nationally anonymous but integral part of Seattle's offense. As a rusher he was worth 40 DYAR, had 13 first downs and a touchdown. As a receiver, he was worth 87 DYAR, nearly as much as Deion Branch, 97 DYAR, and D.J. Hackett, 99 DYAR. He caught 75% of his targets and earned 15 first downs. He was a vital outlet receiver and by season's end, a punishing pass blocker. In a bit of an apples and oranges comparison, Weaver's combined 127 DYAR was second only to Bobby Engram. It wasn't a systems thing, it was a one-handed catch, pretty juke, DB baptismal into the dirt thing. He earned it.
This season he's all but forgotten, a fullback with feature back abilities just playing fullback. Weaver has 13 runs, including five third down draws. Zero converted the first. With Matt Hasselbeck injured and Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye incapable of completing short passes, Weaver's no longer contributing as a receiver. Combine the two and his contributions equal -20 DYAR. Of course, Weaver himself hasn't changed, but the capability and nature of this offense has.
Weaver has never developed as a run blocker. Owen Schmitt, on the other hand, looks capable of becoming the next great blocking back. Schmitt was a monster in the preseason.
Fifth play of Seattle's second drive of the fourth quarter. 2nd and 5, Chicago 16. Seattle breaks 3 WR, Split Backs. Bears in a base 4-3. At the snap, Floyd Womack, who had a very solid half, blocks in engaging Matt Toeaina. That frees Pat Murray to pull left. Ben Claxton pulls up and patiently sits between Rod Wilson and the offensive left, engaging Wilson when Wilson begins rushing towards Forsett. With Womack attacking in, Murray pulling out left and Claxton attacking the middle of the second level, defensive end Ervin Baldwin is unblocked until -- a screaming comes across the sky. Schmitt staggers Baldwin, jogs him downfield and picks Craig Steltz. Steltz, forced to flatten his pursuit angle and engage Forsett horizontally, compensates by facemasking Forsett.
If that were it, that'd be sweet, but that's not it, no that's not half of it.
Overtime, fourth play of Seattle's first drive. 1st and 10, Chicago 36. Seattle breaks 2 WR, TE, SB. Bears in a base 4-3. Seattle is running a sweep play left, with both guards, left guard Murray and right guard Mansfield Wrotto, pulling. At the snap, Schmitt again attacks the right defensive end, but this time strikes with such force that he levels both end Nick Osborn and tackle Toeaina. That pileup picks all three linebackers and Forsett sweeps untouched into the second level.
And the timing is right. As a team, Seattle can't truly give up on the season. It would be uncouth and bad business. So starting second stringers just to see what you got isn't an option. Seattle should see what they've got, but for now it still must be in the name of winning. Luckily, Seattle needs its running attack, to protect Matt should they feed him to Singletary's wolves, or to hide Wallace in the more likely case The Stoic again sees the field. The Niners are much stronger against the pass than the run. It would be a seamless transition, Schmitt's been active in all but week one, and wouldn't require Weaver to sit, or not start, but only sit a bit, and let Schmitt hit that second level for a few drives. Schmitt isn't one-sided, he could receive, and team's that run blitz better prepare for the nastiest screen in the NFL. You'll tackle him, but you'll wish you hadn't. For this season, what remains, and for next season, what could be, it matters. Plus, it would be really damn cool.