What was once believed to be their deepest position, the San Francisco 49ers are beginning to look mighty thin at running back. With Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James succumbing to injuries during camp and Marcus Lattimore still not being cleared to play, the 49ers have some questions at running back.
Frank Gore is 31 years old and not getting any younger. His body is physically incapable of carrying the entire load of the rushing offense anymore. The 49ers were hoping to preserve Gore for as long as possible with a plethora of young running backs sharing the load. Unfortunately, all those young, healthy backs they once had are dropping like flies.
Hunter was believed by many to be the number two running back on the roster. Hunter has been very efficient at spelling Gore and being a change-of-pace back. With him out with an ACL injury, many wondered who would take his spot.
James is the only other running back on the roster besides Frank Gore that has experience in the NFL. Lattimore didn’t play at all during his rookie season and Carlos Hyde is just a rookie. With the limited touches that James received, he didn’t seem to impress as his playing time seemingly diminished with each new game. He isn’t the type of running back the 49ers like to employ either and instead like downhill runners that can smash between the tackles not run around them, which James excels at.
Well no matter, because guess what? James is now hurt as well with a dislocated elbow. This injury brings even more questions focused on the backfield of the offense.
With Hunter and James out for awhile, it leaves the backup role in the hands of a rookie and a second year player that has yet to set foot on the field with pads on.
Although it has all the makings for a feel good story, Lattimore is still an unknown as he has not been cleared to practice yet. Although coach Jim Harbaugh has said that Lattimore will have a spot with the 49ers, it is unclear exactly what that spot will entail.
The 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round of this year’s Draft, because he was “clearly” the best player on their board. I doubt when the 49ers drafted him they expected him to be forced into the number two role behind Gore.
Even though James should be back for the beginning of the season, it’s doubtful he’ll take up the backup role behind Frank Gore. Lattimore will most likely begin practicing soon and we will be able to get a better idea of how he looks. Until all of that, the spot behind Gore has seemingly fallen into Hyde’s lap, and it’s his spot to lose.