In San Francisco’s Week 13 loss to St. Louis, the 49ers running game lacked the fluidity and effectiveness they usually operate with. In hindsight, this should not come as a surprise, given that the 49ers lost their No. 2 running back, Kendall Hunter (Achilles) for the season.
While Gore is the workhorse back, San Francisco’s running attack has been at it’s best when they are sharing the load.
The No. 2 back filling in for Hunter is veteran RB Brandon Jacobs, who just signed with the Niners this offseason. However, he has a completely different running style from Hunter, and in his debut as the No. 2, only earned four carries that went for a grand total of 6 yards.
Hunter brought youth and explosion to the position. When defenses were worn out and frustrated from chasing down an elusive Frank Gore, Hunter would come in and hit his gaps with authority.
Jacobs was caught dancing a bit in Week 13, and it may be enough for the Niners to consider another personnel change.
On Monday, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke did a radio interview with 95.7 The Game, where he addressed the team’s situation in the backfield. When asked about 2012 second-rounder LaMichael James getting involved, this is what Baalke had to say:
"That’s a question the coaching staff can answer ahead of me. Ultimately they’re charged with making those decisions and I’m completely confident in them doing so. I’d say it’s safe to say that LaMichael (James) is going to start getting his opportunities, and confident once again that he’ll make the most of those when given the opportunity."
While this far from any sort of guarantee, it is an intriguing piece of information. A.J. Jenkins was activated for the Week 13 outing, and it turned out that he wasn’t really needed. This week, the 49ers may want to go in a different direction, possibly activating James.