The San Francisco 49ers have lost Bruce Miller to a scapula injury, and likely will be without him for the remainder of the season. In losing Miller, the 49ers lose Frank Gore's lead blocker, a solid pass blocker, and a guy who has been sure-handed in the passing game. He has been a veritable jack-of-all-trades in 2013.
After informing the media of the seriousness of the injury, Jim Harbaugh said the team was bringing in fullback Owen Marecic for a fullback. Since that press conference, Matt Barrows has reported sources indicate the 49ers are unlikely to sign him. Earlier this morning, Jim Harbaugh said on KNBR that the team was bringing in someone for a workout. Maybe it's actually Marecic, maybe it's somebody else.
The 49ers might consider other options, but is it possible Anthony Dixon can fill much of Miller's old role? Dixon came into the league as a running back, but since Jim Harbaugh took over, Dixon has shown a willingness to learn the fullback role in training camp. He has gotten some work at fullback in the regular season, but he has remained a reserve in that role.
I took a look back at some old scouting reports to get a better handle on how Dixon was viewed coming into the NFL. The 49ers used a sixth round pick on Dixon back in 2010. That seems like a lifetime ago, but it's only been four drafts. Anthony Dixon is in the middle of his fourth year with the 49ers, and it seems like every year has been a battle for him to earn a roster spot. And yet, he keeps figuring things out and working his way into a big contributing role on special teams.
However, looking back at a pair of scouting reports, we read of a guy who could handle some of the Bruce Miller role. Most notably, he was a guy who Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft and Matt Miller, now of Bleacher Report, viewed as a fairly decent pass catcher. He has not been too involved in the 49ers passing game to date, but the skills would seem to have been there at one point.
Pass catching: Was an asset in this area of Mississippi State's offense. He'll never be a No. 1 or No. 2 target in the pass game, but he showed he can get open and a catch when asked. Caught 56 career passes for 449 yards and four touchdowns.
Pass Catching: Has better hands than expected. Was used in the Miss. State passing game over the middle and out of the backfield on swings. Does not have the speed to move past defenders, but is quick enough off the line to beat a press.
On the other hand, neither was overly impressed with Dixon's pass blocking. Both viewed him as inconsistent. He has not gotten a lot of opportunities to pass block, but if the 49ers mix him into that Bruce Miller role, I'd imagine he's getting plenty of that work this week.
There wasn't much discussion about his run blocking, because coming out of college he wasn't viewed in that fullback mold. However, we've seen him get work in the role, and we know he does not lack for confidence in his abilities. Maybe the 49ers answer is as simple as that? My guess is the 49ers end up with a platoon of sorts with Dixon, Vance McDonald, Derek Carrier and others potentially combining to fill the role. However, I still think Boobie has the skills to potentially fill the role in the short term.
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