Last night, Matt Barrows tweeted out some information that I had completely forgotten about. Over the last five preseasons, a 49ers running back has led the NFL in rushing four times, with the lone outlier being a third place finish. Your leaders over the years:
2007: Thomas Clayton
2008: Thomas Clayton (3rd)
2009: Glen Coffee
2010: Anthony Dixon
2011: Kendall Hunter
As this list shows, having a dominant statistical performance in the preseason does not always equate to NFL success. This is not remotely surprising, but it is still worth noting. Kendall Hunter has only played one season, but hopefully he can build off that initial success.
Will the 49ers have a running back dominate the leader board once again? Or will the influx of multiple talented backs result in lower numbers than in years past?
Previously, Frank Gore was the lead back, and the 49ers were generally busy trying to find another option. Last year, Hunter was the main backup guy due to Dixon's inability to do much with his opportunities in 2010. Speaking of 2010, when Anthony Dixon led the team in rushing, the only other significant back was Brian Westbrook, and Westbrook was a mid-camp signing who wasn't going to get a lot of preseason carries. In 2009, Glen Coffee was the only backup. In 2008, DeShaun Foster was brought in as another option, but didn't do a whole lot of much.
This bizarre run of league-leading preseason rushers goes to show us how little depth the 49ers have had behind Frank Gore. This year, the tem conceivably finds themselves incredibly loaded in the backfield. Kendall Hunter had a solid rookie year, and even with any kind of sophomore slump (if at all), there is still LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs working into the mix.
When's the last time the 49ers were this deep at running back?