This off-season a large number of NN bloggers seemed to lose faith in Gore. The story went that Gore was over the hill, at 28 years old he'd suffered too many injuries, had lost a step and would no longer be a force in the 49ers backfield. The number of RBs signed in the offseason seemed proof enough for most.
Well, we're now one quarter of the way through the season, so I figured it's time to revisit the question. Gore is currently 11th in the NFL in rushing yards and on pace to rack up over 1300 total yards and 12 TDs. Not bad for an over-the-hill RB ...
Gore's career has been sensational and elite in the sense that he seems to have suffered at least 3 different "career ending" injuries in college and in the NFL, and he's managed to come back from each of them. He's had serious surgery on both knees, suffered a broken hip, an injury that ended bo jackson's career, as well as the normal array of injuries that NFL RBs get. And he keeps bouncing back, breaking the 1000 yard barrier even as he misses games to injury every season.
This off-season people were certain the injuries would catch up to him and that the coaching staff would limit his carries. Admittedly, there's a lot to this argument, but it just doesn't seem to apply this year, yet again.
Gore has 66 attempts, or an average of about 16.5 a game. Gore's highest attempts per game was 19.5 in 2006. His lowest was 16.4 in 2009 when he missed 3 games due to injury. In other words, the reduction in touches this year hasn't been that significant, only 2-3 less per game.
Conventional wisdom would tell you he's going to miss a couple games this season as well, which will then substantially lower the average. But after yesterday's game, Gore seems to still be as healthy as he's ever been. Yesterday's game against the Jets was a tough game for him. The Jets' defense clearly game-planned against him and Gore wasn't able to do much with what was given.
But unlike in years past, where Gore would've continued bruising forward, racking up close to 30 carries, the niners used 7 other rushers (8 if you count Alex Smith, which I don't since his rushes didn't come on designed rushing place) to ease the burden.
The result, he's not on the injury list in any capacity. He's not "working through something." He was able to benefit, finally, from a rushing offense that will keep him safe when the defense is geared to stopping him.
The next four games are going to define Gore's season and future in the NFL. Buffalo shouldn't be a problem, they have the 5th worst rushing defense in the NFL, but the Giants, Seattle and the Cardinals will be the real test. They have some tough defensive lines, especially Seattle, that have been crushing opposing RBs.
If Gore makes it to the bye week healthy and continues to average his 80 yards a game, we could be looking at yet another probowl season from one of the best RBs in the NFL and a good case for bringing him back next year.
Frankly, barring another career ending injury, I just can't see the 49ers going into next season without Frank.