When a team goes in the tank, they eventually start rolling out the young players to see what they can bring to the table. If a team has no chance of making the playoffs, it certainly makes sense to use what game time you do have to assess your talent. This is a position the 49ers find themselves in, or at least fast approaching as 2010 gets uglier and uglier.
Any "youth movement" would probably be delayed in San Francisco at least a few more weeks because of Coach Mike Singletary's relatively tenuous hold on the head coaching position. Ownership has said they'll keep him through the rest of the season, but if the losses continue to pile up that opinion might change in a hurry. If the team makes a switch at some point, or if Mike Singletary realizes it's become a lost season, it's entirely possible we'll see some kind of youth movement.
Of course, we've already sort of seen much of that you that movement in action in 2010. The team has inserted OT Anthony Davis, OG Mike Iupati, and S Taylor Mays into the primary starting lineup. TE Nate Byham has received a lot of reps due to his H-back abilities and the injury to Delanie Walker. LB NaVorro Bowman has received a lot of reps on special teams and backing up Takeo Spikes. WR Kyle Williams has been a primary return man when healthy and CB Phillip Adams has been given some time around the field as well. RB Anthony Dixon has been all over the special teams units, but has seen fairly limited playing time with the offense.
Given all that, aside from potentially playing Troy Smith and/or Nate Davis at some point, are there specific changes you'd like to see in the starting lineup going forward? I know Anthony Dixon has a huge fan contingent, as do Troy Smith and Nate Davis. If you're the 49ers, do you let Gore get to 1,000 yards (he's on pace for 1,300 yards) and then scale him back or even shut him down entirely?
I'm happy letting Gore move forward in the 49ers record books, but I definitely think if the team decides to look to the future, they need to get Anthony Dixon a lot more reps on offense. Unlike some folks around here, I don't have absolute faith that Anthony Dixon is going to be a beast. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. That's just the way the NFL works. But if the team is truly committed to finding a quality second back, and really an eventual successor to Frank Gore, they might as well figure it out with Anthony Dixon.