This is the next installment in our series of 12 positions in 12 days previewing the upcoming Eagles training camp. Rookie and selected vets report to Lehigh July 26th and each day leading up to that date we will bring you a preview of a different position battle.
Today we look at a position that has been forsaken for too long on this team. Yes, the fullback.
Much like punt returner in 2007, the Eagles went into 2008 without an actual fullback on the roster. Tony Hunt was converted from RB a week prior, which was an experiment that didn't go well. He was replaced by converted DT Dan Klecko, who was better but still not "good" Later in the season, Kyle Eckel was added from the Patriots but Eckel worked mostly as a short yardage running back and never really played the fullback position.
Much like punt returner in 2007... it took the Eagles a year to add an accomplished player at the fullback position. Enter Leonard Weaver. Weaver was a pro bowl alternate in 2008 and having played under Andy Reid mentor Mike Holmgrem in Seattle, he comes already equipped with an intimate knowledge of the Eagles style of West Coast offense.
Anyone who followed this site during free agency knows that I thought this move was a no brainer.
Weaver's skill set should fit the Eagles offense very well. He's a very good blocker, a capable run blocker, can carry the ball effectively when asked(career YPA 4.5), and most importantly has great hands catching the ball out of the backfield. He should provide McNabb with an option and an outlet at position where he really has had one since.... who knows when?
Marcus Mailei - Alectheman wrote a great article on Mailei that will provide you with more insight to the player that I probably ever could. I suggest you check that out.
What to watch for
The battle for starter probably won't be a battle at all. Leonard Weaver is all but guaranteed to be the starting fullback opening day, but there are several things worth watching in camp with Weaver. First is his lead blocking. While it would be wrong to say Weaver is poor lead blocker, it is the part of his game with the most room for improvement. He's an excellent pass blocker, a good receiver, and a capable run blocker. He's improved in that area every year in the league... can he take the next step this year?
It will also be interesting to see how Weaver is used in the offense. Andy Reid will surely be salivating over another good pass catching option and it could be exciting to see the job Weaver can do as a safety valve for McNabb. When given the chance to carry the football last year, Weaver did a solid job. Will he get any carries in the Eagles offense? All things to watch for.
As for the battle at backup... The problem for Kyle Eckel & Marcus Mailei is that there likely won't be a backup FB position to fight for. The Eagles will probably not want to carry an extra fullback on their roster, but the guys can make the team in other ways. The Eagles are always looking for standout special teams player, there's the practice squad for a guy like Mailei, and Eckel could still find a job as a running back on the team.
Previous position previews