Ever since 2006, Frank Gore's sophomore year with the San Francisco 49ers, it has been all Gore all the time at the running back position. I know it, you know it, and every 49er fan knows it. Ever since Kevan Barlow left the 49ers after the 2005 season, Frank Gore has been the team's feature back. And while he has had his backups - including a big name in Brian Westbrook in 2010 - no one has ever been able to rip much time away from him. That could all change in 2012.
According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Gore is in jeopardy of losing a good amount of playing time with all the 49ers' additions at running back. Topping the list is newcomer Brandon Jacobs, followed by second round draft pick LaMichael James, incumbent backup Kendall Hunter, and 2011's third string back, Anthony Dixon. Even with all of those backs in the mix to make the 49ers' roster, I don't think Gore is in jeopardy of losing his starting role, but like Maiocco, I believe that he could lose some playing time.
Let's take a look at who I think will impact Gore's playing time and why:
Anthony Dixon (Minimal Impact). For starters, I think Dixon is going to have to work extremely hard to make the 53-man roster. His spot is certainly not guaranteed with the addition of Jacobs and James, so Dixon may have little impact on Gore's playing time. If anything, Dixon will make the team as a primary special teams' player and could be used at running back in an emergency situation or on fake special team plays.
Kendall Hunter (Fair Impact). Hunter has the ability to bounce to the outside far better than Gore, yet he has not proven that he can run between the tackles effectively before ripping off a big run - at least not consistently. I like Hunter and could see him earning a spot behind Gore as the team's backup running back.
Brandon Jacobs (Good Impact). Jacobs is likely going to be the 49ers' short yardage/third down running back - at least that is how I would use him if I were in Jim Harbaugh's position. That means that Gore won't be utilized nearly as much in the red zone as he had been featured in recent seasons. Jacobs (6'4", 264 lbs.) is a big, big running back compared to Gore (5'9", 217 lbs.) so it makes sense to utilize the linebacker size of Jacobs to wear down the defensive front seven even in situations that don't call for short yardage.
LaMichael James (Fair Impact). Like Dixon, I think we could see James used for kick and punt returns on special teams more so than being featured at running back. However, James has a special elusiveness and if he can get better at catching passes, he could end up being a very dangerous, Darren Sproles-type player on the screen/swing pass. It is for that reason that I see him stealing just a bit of Gore's playing time while Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman get creative with the offense.
(This is all predicated on the fact that all of these players will make the 49ers' 53-man roster. Which I don't see happening.)
Food for thought: Do you think Frank Gore will be hindered by all the additional help at running back, or will it allow him to focus on his role as the 49ers' starter and drive him to be a better running back? Besides Gore, which running backs will make the 49ers' roster?
David is co-founder of wrapupp sports blog where fresh content is posted daily and present sports blogs and sports opinions - all with a West Coast bias. Growing up in the Bay Area, David is a huge supporter of all the local sports teams; the Giants, Athletics, Warriors, Sharks, 49ers, and Raiders. His one fault, admittedly, as many of his friends and family would say, is his love for the Los Angeles Lakers. Growing up, Magic Johnson was his favorite basketball player and he fell in love with the team. He chalks it up to, "Not knowing any better". Now his love for sports has turned just as academic as it is intuitive and he follows most all sports all over the nation.
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Pro-Football-Reference.com. Frank Gore Career Stats. NFL 2012.
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