If you can’t beat ‘em, force ‘em to play for you. That’s the saying, right? Well it just might be for Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has a tendency to go after players that have beaten him previously, whether it might was in college or the pros. Mario Manningham, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Jacobs, and Craig Dahl are just a few that have found their way onto the 49ers’ roster after beating them a year before. In college, LaMichael James a couple very nice games against Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal that helped him get drafted by the 49ers.
There is a reason Harbaugh drafted James in the second round of the 2012 draft. He’s a playmaker. But what does a playmaker need to make plays? Playing time. James isn’t doing much good for the 49ers on the bench, and he needs to get his touches like any other player. So why isn’t James playing, let alone suiting up?
The 49ers have great depth at the running back position. With Gore, Hunter, Dixon, and Miller, they have a back for nearly every situation. Fans and writers can sit and write how much they think James should play until they’re blue in the face, but the bottom line is that the coaches see James everyday and just don’t think he’s proving himself enough to warrant taking an active roster spot from someone else. Some have suggested trading James just to get something out of him, but General Manager Trent Baalke says that the 49ers are not interested in trading him.
While he might not have proved himself yet, that does not change the fact the James has shown before that he some traits that none of the other runners have. He might have the best agility, speed, and quickness out of the entire running back corps. He still deserves his touches so that he can try and make something happen and prove himself.
If not for the run game, James could definitely improve the return game. Many fans credit James with helping win the Patriots game last year. After the offense had done absolutely nothing for almost ten minutes, James took a kick return for 60 yards which set up at touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree that put the 49ers ahead once and for all.
And to be honest, save for muffing the punts, James can’t do much worse than Kyle Williams in the punt return game. Whether it is confidence or just ability, Kyle Williams has been more than lackluster at returning punts. It seems like he makes up his mind to fair catch a punt before the ball has even been snapped. James could provide a spark in the return game that could help the 49ers dominate the field position game.
James deserves to be active even if it’s only for special teams. He is an explosive player that needs his touches to make things happen. James has too much talent to be wasting away on the bench. The 49ers need to be find a way to get him involved and give him touches. And that just might happen in the not-to-distant future.