As we near Week 5 of 2012 regular season, the San Francisco 49ers (3-1) look like they will have to make some personnel decisions. Another week gone by allowed time for players to get healthy, and as the Niners prepare for the Buffalo Bills, it looks like running back Brandon Jacobs could make his 49ers debut.
Jacobs suffered a knee injury against the Houston Texans in the preseason, and has not suited up for one of San Francisco's four games.
Signed as a veteran free agent, the 6'5", 265 pound back has a unique skill set the team would seriously like to use on game day. And not only would they like to, but they need to. With a struggling situational offense, Jacobs could provide a spark, helping as a short-yardage chain mover and blocking back.
And while that's all well and good, teams can only activate 45 players from their 53-man roster on game day. Therefore, if Jacobs is expected to start, that means someone who's played in the first four games would have to take a seat. The question is to find out which player makes the most sense, and would least hurt the 49ers chances of winning.
I won't beat around the bush: The first person that pops into everyone's minds is Anthony Dixon.
It's just crazy to activate that many backs in a game. Between Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, Brandon Jacobs and Bruce Miller, the 49ers would have five backs in the game. Not to mention Will Tukuafu and Delanie Walker also help out in the full back role.
So, right off the bat, if the team is to activate Jacobs, the thought process goes to deactivating someone else at that specific position.
Dixon has been fairly limited on offense, only really showing himself at the end of last week's road blowout of the Jets. However, he is a regular special teams contributor and energetic hype man for the Niners. Gore and Hunter aren't going anywhere though, and the team has had enough trouble getting rookie LaMichael James into games. Dixon could and should be the odd man out.
Though, a few names beside Dixon that could also be inactive, and it wouldn't hurt San Francisco:
Tukuafu has not played a significant role on defense. In fact, his most notable contributions have come on offense in the 49ers jumbo package. While it would hurt to not have him there, it's a role that could be supplemented by another big bodied player.
Ginn has only been active for one game this season, just coming back from injury last week against the New York Jets. While he was out, Kyle Williams was explosive as a returner, showing he could provide a spark at the position. Williams also happens to already be a larger contributor on offense than Ginn.
For as much time as Moss has missed out on in games already, it's hard to think his involvement is deciding the wins for San Francisco. If that 14%-20% dropped down to 0%, would anyone really notice? The 49ers have not gone deep, and just seem to be looking to beat teams on the ground. Philosophically, benching Moss for Jacobs would play in the 49ers favor.
So, maybe San Francisco wouldn't have to bench Dixon, but don't be shocked if he is indeed inactive. When the 49ers coaching staff is hashing this one out, special teams contributions will likely be a topic of conversation. Dixon has the experience and Jacobs doesn't; not to say No. 45 wouldn't be willing to try his hand at it, and frankly, it would be pretty interesting to see.