I'm worried that we saw with Cardale last year what this offense looks like without the QB being a constant threat to run. For whatever reason, even with JT it's still not a pass-first offense. Maybe it will be with Burrow or Haskins, but not now. If you effectively eliminate JT as a threat to run, drives start stalling out too often. It's almost like the QB run takes the place of a high-percentage, short-yardage slant pass.
We saw this last year - if they didn't pick up 7 or so yards on 1st+2nd down, 3rd down often didn't go very well. That's because in that situation it's a passing down, and the offense simply isn't built to pass when every one KNOWS you're going to pass. And no matter how good your rushing attack is, you're going to end up with two consecutive low-gain plays. So they basically HAVE to pick up 7 yards on 1st+2nd down. And with all the athletes and all the clever ways to line them up and run them, all of those remain change-of-pace plays. The most reliable way to pick up 3 yards - essentially the bread and butter play of the offense - appears to be spreading the field with an empty backfield and letting the line + JT pick them up for you. You almost always get the yards, but you also almost always get JT hammered.
I really don't see how this changes in the short term. After last year Urban isn't going to risk the season by letting the offense sputter for too long, and the QB run out of an empty backfield is the safety blanket. Maybe as the line continues to gel they'll throw in more complex blocking schemes, which may allow running more clever runs from a JT+Weber backfield, while still lining up 4 out wide to keep the box relatively empty? If they can make that formation look like a JT running threat, it might increase the effectiveness of Weber running and take the pressure off JT. You still have to run him regularly to keep up the threat, but you can try to do it when he's least likely to get hit hard.
The key seems to be picking up yards on every play. So far they've been very successful at that except for the first half of the Tulsa game. If I'm not mistaken, we started seeing a lot more JT runs after that, even when already ahead by a comfortable margin. In the scope of this season, I think the trick will be to pick up yards against weaker opponents in other ways, limiting the overall number of hits JT takes. In critical games, like MSU, Mich, CCG, and the playoffs, it's essentially unavoidable. Any time the offense sputters against a weaker opponent it becomes unavoidable as well. So ... don't sputter?