Leonard Weaver offered some small antidote to our rushing woes by way of receiving. When the ball hits his hands he's off, proving a mismatch for New Orleans linebackers. His ability to be a true threat out of the backfield gives Seattle's split-back and to a lesser extent I-back formations new life. With Pittsburgh, and in the early going, New Orleans sitting on our receivers deep, Weavers' ability to explode from underneath could provide an invaluable scheme buster.
Weaver had a fantastic half, and though he's not quite Strong's equal as a run blocker, he's so far better as a rusher and receiver that he's a net upgrade. Weaver busted some heads on his one run, but it was the play where he turned an improvised Beck dish into a drive changing third down conversion that I want to break down. It's 3rd and 5 on the Hawks second to last drive of the half. Seattle is split four wide, with Weaver in the backfield. The Bears bring pressure, Beck escapes, scrambles left, sees Weaver open and delivers a low line drive. Weaver grabs the pass, knocks Trumaine McBride out of his shoes, stays in bounds with a graceful tip toe and nets 8 yards and the first. What makes this play so exciting is the combination of sure hands, power and grace that Weaver displays. Few receivers in the league can blow up a DB one moment and then tiptoe inbounds for a first the next. Gold Star.
Weaver put an end to the madness and blocked a blitzing Witherspoon on a crucial third down conversion. Weaver has improved tremendously as a run and pass blocker since the preseason contest against the Pack.
On the fourth play of the Hawks' second drive, Clancy Pendergast cued up a nifty little five man blitz. Four interior rushers stunted into the line, creating confusion and occupying all five primary blockers. That allowed Matt Ware to come free from the outside edge. Unfortunately for Ware and the Cards defense, Leonard Weaver had his blocking shoes on. Ware is 6'2, 214; a somewhat large DB. That made it all the more fun to see him shot into the air. The funniest part, Weaver blocks Ware and then looks bemused by the results - like he's awed by his own strength.
Weapons Grade Plutonium: A lot of things went right to allow Weaver to rush 17 yards for the score. Foremost, Weaver is an excellent rusher for a fullback. After the snap, Spencer pulls out, but doesn't engage his man. Nevertheless, his presence still functions as a pick, which Weaver exploits perfectly, running behind Spencer until he has a clear angle to the right then cutting towards the sideline. That's where Engram is performing a very determined downfield block. Not dominant and maybe not even legal, but the officials were extremely permissive of holds, and what Engram did was by no means the the worst display of holding I saw in this quarter. (That would be Stephon Heyer grabbing a hold of Kerney's jersey and then falling backwards to the ground, taking Kerney with him.) At this point it's all up to Weaver to smell endzone, and he's does so admirably. Even getting airborne to cross the pylon.
Weaver badly blew a block on Alexander's lone meaningful rush. First play, first Hawk drive of the second half, and the type of blown block that gives you chills. He didn't whiff squaring up against a defender or get caught in traffic, he just ran into his own O-Line, right into Chris Gray's back, so that once Alexander bounced the ball outside, as he's wont to do, Weaver was behind Alexander.
Weaver: Right now, Weaver is a better rusher and receiver than Mack Strong ever was. That's not dig on Strong either, who had some solid seasons. What Weaver can't compare to Strong on is awareness. As a blocker, Weaver runs readily and makes solid contact. Because of his feet and overall strength, Weaver has the potential to be a very good blocker, but he just doesn't always know who to block. That's pretty crucial, of course. On the 3rd play of the Hawks 3rd drive, Morris was dialed up to run off tackle. The Skins' Marcus Washington is walked up to the line, clearly positioned for a run blitz, or a read/react run blitz, but Weaver, whose lead blocking out of the "I", runs past Washington and engages an irrelevant DB. Washington shoots in untouched and Morris eats it for a loss of 3. Good discipline by Mercury here to not attempt to escape a broken play, but the result still effectively kills the drive.
Mike Holmgren is an execution coach. He’s not flashy or innovative, but uncompromising and disciplined. Execution without innovation is a Honda Accord. Innovation without execution is an Edsel. Execution without innovation is Philip Roth. Innovation without execution is your bespectacled roommate that loiters coffee shops, two books apparent (a heavily dog-eared A Reader’s Manifesto and an immaculate as a slab of marble 77 Dream Songs), with alcoholic affectations and a thousand blank notebooks. But though uncompromising dedication to execution has earned the former schoolman a spot in the Hall, it’s not without blood. Slippery speed back Ahman Green springs to mind.
Leonard Weaver nearly suffered Holmgren’s wrath. Had the Walrus still been the man with the phone, Weaver may not have survived the preseason. Had he not, it would have been a debilitating loss. Weaver is a talented rusher and receiver with developing blocking skills. His execution is still primitive, but he’s a recently converted tight end faced with an abbreviated learning curve. As sure as his imperfections glared under the hot August sun, his passion and potential burned through the cold winter months. Weaver has a fistful of talent and the soul of a hustler. It’s too bad this might be his final season in Blue. So, with Owen Schmitt aboard, does Seattle unleash the scariest power package in the NFL (Burleson, Schmitt, Carlson, Weaver and Duckett) or do Weaver’s rough edges force him to the periphery? Execution is irreplaceable, but so is talent.