San Francisco 49ers reserve running back LaMichael James has had a rocky start to his sophomore season in the NFL. James came on strong at the end of last year, as he filled in for the injured Kendall Hunter at the backup running back position. James finished his rookie regular with 27 carries for 125 yards, which is 4.6 yards per carry. As a receiver, James added three catches for 29 yards. He also had nearly a 30 yard per return average on kick returns.
James then became a weapon off the bench for the Niners in the playoffs. He served as an excellent change of pace to Frank Gore. James had 11 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown in three games, which amounted to 5.91 yards per carry. He also added two catches for 11 yards, as the Niners did not utilize his skills in the passing game. As a returner, his average slipped to 23.14 yards per return.
The idea for this season was for a more involved role for the speedy running in the offense, as Hunter was still recovering from an Achilles injury. James would give the Niners’ offense another dimension that they really do not possess and that is big play ability.
James’s second year has not been what he has hoped for. He struggled to find his rhythm in the preseason, as he had 55 yards on 24 carries. He seemed to regress in his ability to read running lanes and find holes, as he seemed skittish and seemed dance behind the line of scrimmage. It also did not help that he often played with the second and third team offense and the line play from those units was atrocious at best.
There were several factors to James’s poor preseason, but the major factors were he lack of vision and decisiveness and poor line play. They can be tied together, but he suffered an injury in the final preseason game that has limited his chances to run behind the first team offensive line.
James has been inactive with an undisclosed knee injury to begin the season. James’s injury has been a mystery and the amount of time that he would miss was initially unknown. It created questions as to what role the Niners were expecting James to fill, especially with the return of Hunter. It apparently left James wondering too.
James sent out a tweet that caught the attention of fans and media members. The tweet was quickly deleted, but many were able to grab a screen picture of it. The tweet seemed to be James venting his frustration at a lack of playing time and he did not want to be insurance to Gore and Hunter. So, the mainstream media jumped all over this and assumed that James was frustrated with his situation and began to question whether he was on the verge of becoming a distraction. It also raised the question about whether or not the Niners should trade him.
The smart move would be to hold on the talented speedster. James has the skill set to become a dynamic player and it is just a matter of the coaching staff and James getting on the same page on how to utilize his skills. James is also still growing as an NFL player, in terms of learning the mental and technical aspects of the pro game.
The Niners should not give up on this talented player on the basis of a harmless tweet, especially a tweet that may not have been related to the Niners at all. James sent this tweet shortly after:
I don’t tweet bout football or anything related to my team so don’t need ur input
— LaMichael James (@LaMichaelJames) October 1, 2013
Then the fine folks at Niners Nation had a great article on the possible motives behind James’s outburst on the social media site. She provided a great insight into the mindset of James and his personality that he shows us through his tweets. I tend to agree with her assessment, as I have followed James since his freshman year with the Oregon Ducks.
James’s time at Oregon showed how solid of a person that he is on and off the field. James was the ultimate competitor and teammate, as he would put his body on the line every play to try and win the game. He often played through injury and was one of the most productive players in college football history.
James was a standout off the field, as well. At Oregon, James was one of the most approachable athletes at the University, which can be seen by the love and admiration of the fan base. James is extremely humble and down to earth. He does not seem to have the big look at me personality that many players of his stature seem to possess. If you want an idea of the type of person that he really, then read the story on his upbringing and you can see what made him the person that he is.
This story is getting more attention than what is truly deserves. This is the media looking for chinks and flaws in the armor of the San Francisco 49ers. James is a great teammate and a humble person and he loves the game of football. Fans should love that he wants to play that much, but ultimately this is mountains being made out of mole hills.