The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of assembling their practice squad for the coming season, and one player that appears set to sign is second year running back Jewel Hampton. Earlier today, Matt Barrows reported a league source indicated Hampton would sign with the 49ers practice squad. We'll get final confirmation when the 49ers email out the official press release announcing the additions.
The 49ers practice squad has truly lived up to the "opportunity" squad moniker Jim Harbaugh enjoys using. The 49ers earlier 2012 practice squad included LB Michael Wilhoite, DT Tony Jerod-Eddie and linebacker Cam Johnson. Nate Stupar also made an appearance late in the season. And of course, we can't forget former practice squad player Alex Boone, who is developing into a potential All Pro right guard.
Jewel Hampton joined the 49ers as an undrafted free agent last season. He spent much of the season on the NFI list after having some bone spurs removed that offseason. He was activated late in the season, but never saw action.
This year, he ended up sitting out the 49ers preseason opener with an undisclosed injury. He made his return in the 49ers Week 2 matchup with the Chiefs, rushing 19 times for 33 yards. It was not a quality performance, but getting back on the field was really all that mattered in my mind. He had not played a down of "competitive" football since college.
In Week 3, we saw some quick improvement, as Hampton rushed eight times for 45 yards and a touchdown. In Week 4, he closed out the preseason with ten rushes for 35 yards. In those two games, he started to show us some of the skills that impressed in college and got the 49ers attention.
Some thought Hampton would get claimed off waivers. In clearing waivers, I have to wonder if teams were skeptical about his pass protection, and that he was potentially just impressing against bottom of the roster players. There were reports early in camp that he struggled in pass protection compared to D.J. Harper. Those are necessarily the reasons he cleared, but they might be among the reasons teams elected to pass on the young running back.
For now, the 49ers get more time to work with Hampton. Considering how deep the team is at running back, this is a great situation. Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James will handle business this year, but then you've still got Marcus Lattimore on the NFI list, and Hampton on the practice squad. The Seahawks have great depth on their active roster, but I don't think anybody can really match the 49ers depth up and down the entire roster.