49ers Running Backs: Whither Anthony Dixon?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 04: Anthony Dixon #24 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after they beat the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park on December 4, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Over the past two years, Anthony Dixon has bounced between fan favorite and frustration quite frequently. The sixth round pick has always been an enthusiastic player, often seeing waving the 49ers flag after victories. He has been a strong contributor on special teams, but his work as a running back has left much to be desired. He's a big running back, but he often runs like a smaller change of pace back.

In his rookie season, Dixon rushed 70 times for 237 yards, getting a sizable amount of work over the final third of the season after Frank Gore hurt his hip. Dixon was very inconsistent, and found himself battling for carries in training camp with rookie Kendall Hunter. It became very clear, very quickly that Hunter was going to emerge as Frank Gore's primary backup in 2011. Dixon saw his carries drop to 29, as the team focused his role to special teams.

Now we head into 2012 training camp, and for the second consecutive year, the 49ers have added a lot of talent at running back. LaMichael James will be battling Kendall Hunter for carries, while Anthony Dixon will be battling Brandon Jacobs for a roster spot. In my mind, I see Jacobs securing the power back role, even though that means finding enough carries for four running backs. Jacobs is no lock, but that's how I see it playing out.

For Dixon, being a special teams standout likely will not be enough, particularly with the addition of special teams ace RB Rock Cartwright. It appears Dixon has been working out like a demon this offseason, but is that enough? If he can't learn to throw his weight around like the big man he is, does it matter how hard he has worked out? As frustrating as Dixon can be at times, I remain a fan, and would love to see him break through as a power back for the 49ers. Unfortunately, there's nothing to make me thing we'll see enough changes to justify a roster spot.

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