49ers roster turnover: Have the running backs improved?

USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers return their primary running backs from 2012, but injury recovery impacts the depth chart for 2013. With the changes, are the 49ers better, worse or the same compared to the end of last season?

The 49ers rookies report to training camp this Friday, with veterans following them five days later. We're continuing our countdown to training camp with a series of articles titled "49ers roster turnover." I'm going through the various position groups and considering how the roster has changed over the last 12 months. We'll take a look at the team's depth chart heading into the first preseason game last year, prior to Week 1 of the regular season, the Super Bowl and then how it currently stands. Four depth charts give us an idea of how the roster developed over the course of the year.

Today we take a look at a position that has seen change over the last year, but for a whole mix of reasons. We're looking at the running back position, which has dealt with injuries, suspensions and so much more. Here is a look at the how the depth chart has shaken out over the last 12 months.

Preseason 2012 depth chart

RB: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James, Rock Cartwright
FB: Bruce Miller, Anthony Dixon, Cameron Bell

Injured: Jewel Hampton

Week 1 depth chart

RB: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James
FB: Bruce Miller, Anthony Dixon

Injured: Jewel Hampton

Super Bowl depth chart

RB: Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton
FB: Bruce Miller, Anthony Dixon, Will Tukuafu

Current depth chart

RB: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton, D.J. Harper
FB: Bruce Miller, Anthony Dixon

Injured: Marcus Lattimore

Talk about some changes! Brandon Jacobs made the 53-man roster, but it was mostly a disaster, as he was eventually suspended. He showed some things early in the preseason, before an injury sidelined him for the remainder of preseason. He fell out of favor, got annoyed with it, and more or less talked his way off the team.

Jewel Hampton spent much of last season on the Non-Football Injury List, before being activated for the final five weeks of the regular season, along with the playoffs. He was a game-day inactive the entire time, but the fact that the 49ers moved him off the NFI list strikes me as at least a little bit intriguing. He is battling for a roster spot this year in what is an incredibly stacked group of running backs.

The big question heading into training camp is how will Kendall Hunter look after tearing his Achilles last season. Hunter has been far and away the best backup running back to Frank Gore since Gore took over the starting role from Kevan Barlow. Brian Westbrook had some solid performances in place of an injured Gore in 2010, but in two seasons as Gore's backup, Kendall Hunter has been a strong complement to Gore.

And now we get to see the 49ers roll out their trio of running backs with Gore, Hunter and LaMichael James. As much as we love talking about Colin Kaepernick, can you imagine what this trio of running backs could do together behind the 49ers offensive line?

Given the return of Kendall Hunter, and the competition with Jewel Hampton in the mix, how do you view the 49ers running backs compared to the end of last season?

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