ATLANTA – Leonard Weaver is the forgotten man no more.
When it seemed like one of the wide receivers would have to step into the void left by the playmaking DeSean Jackson, it was the fullback who made the big plays in the Eagles' 34-7 blasting of the Falcons yesterday.
Weaver bobbled but pulled in the Eagles' first touchdown - a 4-yard pass from Donovan McNabb. He made a one-handed catch and run that was the offense's longest play from scrimmage. And he gave the Eagles some semblance of a running game, gaining 37 yards on five carries, while tailback LeSean McCoy was held to 2 yards on six carries.
"When I come into a game, I want a defensive coordinator to account for me," Weaver said. "A lot of fullbacks in this league don't get the chance to be accountable, because they're not considered weapons."
It's not as if Weaver came out of nowhere. Slowly but surely he has become an integral part of the offense as the Eagles inch closer to a playoff berth. As Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said, the offense is beginning to "evolve." But early in the season the off-season acquisition's main responsibility was blocking.
In the first six games, Weaver ran the ball just four times. In the six games since, he's rushed 32 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns. While Eagles coach Andy Reid would like to take credit for that change, a lot of it simply has had to do with Brian Westbrook's missing five of the six games because of concussions.
"We were just rotating a lot of guys in there," said Reid, explaining Weaver's lack of early-season touches. "So he didn't have quite as many carries as we should have given him."
Said Weaver: "Coach doesn't need to regret that."
In the Eagles' Game 6 win over Washington, when Westbrook suffered his first concussion, Weaver didn't make good use of his limited touches. He ran once for 1 yard and caught one pass for 1 yard. He was despondent afterward. Still, he went to Reid with a gentle reminder.
"I know that [Westbrook] is out right now, so whatever you need me to do, I'll be there to do it," Weaver recalled telling his coach. "Lean on me if you have to."
The Eagles did, calling on Weaver eight times against the Giants. He responded with 75 yards a touchdown. He's been a complement to McCoy ever since. However, for some reason his pass-catching ability has been underused. In his last two seasons in Seattle, Weaver had 59 catches for 535 yards. He had only 10 receptions entering yesterday's game. But with tight end Brent Celek nursing a sprained thumb, the Eagles called on Weaver in the first quarter.
"We had a couple of passes for him," Mornhinweg said.
The Eagles, who have struggled in the red zone, settled for a short field goal on their first possession. They advanced to Atlanta's 4-yard line on their ensuing drive, however, and scored when a scrambling McNabb found Weaver in the end zone. Weaver bobbled the ball twice but held on.
One series later, Weaver was more sure-handed, snaring a pass over the middle with only his left paw and motoring 59 yards all told.
"Thanks to Reebok's gloves," Weaver said. "It's supposed to be a nice little drop-in catch for a few yards, but it ended up working out better."
So has Weaver, who was signed to a one-year deal. The Eagles have extended several players over the last few weeks. He said he would like to be another.
"There is no question about it," he said. "This is somewhere I would love to be long-term."