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Leonard in the middle

I thought of something this morning, something about Brian Leonard's role in the Rams Al Saunders' led offense.

(Yes, I think about Brian Leonard while I'm driving to work.)

So far, much of the talk about Saunder's breath of fresh air in the Rams offense ahs revolved around the big expectations from Steven Jackson, Marc Bulger, and a new life for Randy McMichael. Not much about Brian Leonard, other than that he's bulking up and is expected to do more lead blocking. And that's it, right?

Maybe not. A big part of Saunders' offensive systems is creating mismatches in the middle. Getting a strong pass catcher who overmatches the linebackers into the middle of the field forces teams to cover that receiver with a safety and leave the corners somewhat exposed. That role has traditionally been reserved for a meaty tight end under Saunders, think Tony Gonzalez or to a lesser extent Chris Cooley, and McMichael will still get plenty of looks in the middle of the field. But McMichael's strength is route running, and he'll see a lot of his work down the field, behind the linebackers, similar to Chris Cooley, who wasn't often used banging around with middle linebackers for jump balls.

Another player used in a similar role, albeit not under Al Saunders, was our very own Marshall Faulk. Obviously, Steven Jackson, who compares favorably to the great Marshall Faulk, will be doing some of that. A beefier Leonard, who has pass catching skills, could also fit that more specific role well, and save some ware and tear on the Rams feature back (remember, Saunder's running backs have a history of injury - Priest Holmes, Clinton Portis) who figures to be quite an investment once the Rams get a deal done.

Remember, the NFC West features some top tier linebackers with guys like Tatupu in Seattle and Willis in SF who know how to play the game. Brining in Brian Leonard to threaten the middle of the field on a few plays, and eventually forcing defenses to react to his presence, thereby opening up more room for other receviers.