For some time now I have felt Delanie Walker should be frequently used as a staple in the 49ers offense. A recent article by Matt Maiocco has all but confirmed my thoughts regarding the importance of the dynamic player that is Walker.
In the article, Matt essentially echoed the same observations I made this past Sunday. Not only did Delanie play fullback several times, but the offense worked well no matter where he was on the field (FB, TE, WR). His mere presence causes the defense problems.
I think, for the most part, we can agree that Moran Norris is not the fullback he was back in 2006. This leaves us with a dilemma: Despite Frank Gore's affinity for his lead blocker, is it best we move in a different direction? Several times in the Seattle game the 49ers used tight ends as the fullback. Early in the game, Delanie Walker motioned to fullback several times. Later in the game you could see Nate Byham get a little time as a fullback as well.
None of these players seem to be punishing lead blockers, but if Norris is not longer a battering ram, maybe we should utilize better overall players.
Delanie Walker is a better overall player than most. Yes, he may be a speedy, slightly undersized tight end, but clearly Raye is comfortable enough to use him as a lead blocker as well. Maybe he should simply be on the field at all times. Vernon Davis is on the field every play. The only other skill players who can say that are Alex Smith and Frank Gore. I think Delanie Walker should join the group.A weapon like Walker doesn't come around often. He has speed, strength, receiving skills, blocking skills, and seems comfortable no matter what position he plays. He gives defenses nightmares, and I think he should not only be a secondary tool to VD, but a critical piece of this offense no matter what the situation.
Imagine the botched TD play with Norris, except replace him with Walker. That ball, regardless of an awkward throw, is a touchdown. You may argue, "The defense would know it's a play-action if Walker is at fullback in that situation." I would counter that is not necessarily true if you use Walker as a lead blocker more often (which they did early in the game).
I'm not suggesting Walker become a full time fullback, but I would like to see him become more of a focus in this offense. He is simply too good in too many ways. There isn't a situation in a football game that he can't benefit your offense. Also, Nate Byham should possibly get more reps as a fullback. You can also consider putting him at TE and Walker at FB in the 22 personnel. They could definitely swap back and forth which could keep the defense guessing to the 49ers advantage.
I'm not trying to say I'm some offensive genius or that I know what exactly to do with such a talented player. However, I do know that Delanie needs to be on the field constantly. And while Jimmy Raye did seem to use him more in this game than most of last season, I hope he continues to develop roles for Walker. If Norris continues to falter, there is no reason Walker (and Byham) can't fill the void left by Norris' failures.
I can't help but think Bill Walsh would have had field days with a weapon like Walker.