Do we see a pattern here? Running back doesn’t play, running back complains about it on twitter, running backs gets dumped by the 49ers.
LaMichael James is the latest to fall into this trap. Eric Branch of the Chronicle broke the story that James would not be taking part in the off-season program, which started on Monday.
Players that publicly buck for playing time are displaying their insecurity for all to see. If James wanted more playing time, he needed to prove it in practice. Not that all the best players get to start. Just like in any organization, politics and misjudgment are factors.
The 49ers aren’t immune. They released cornerback Marcus Cooper last year only to see him emerge as a viable nickelback in Kansas City. The Dolphins plucked safety Michael Thomas off the 49ers’ practice squad late last year and he picked off a Tom Brady pass in Miami’s December 16 upset of New England.
However, James, who the 49ers are trying to deal, isn’t likely to become somebody else’s big star.
The second-round pick in the 2012 draft lacks the elusiveness to be consistently effective. At 5-9, 195, James is quick, but his lack of lateral quickness holds him back. While returning punts and kicks last season, James rarely made defenders miss.
Also, James wasn’t always a willing participant in the team’s more menial tasks. For example, during training camp his first year, he appeared uninterested as a punt protector. The protector calls out the snap and makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He’s the quarterback
of the punt team.
James, during his first training camp, constantly messed up the calls and half-heartedly ran down the field when the punt was kicked.
Meanwhile, Thomas, who signed the same year, was a punt protector. He knew all the calls and ran down to cover punts as if he was being chased by a Doberman.
The 49ers envision James and Kendall Hunter, eventually taking over for starting running back Frank Gore. That’s not likely to happen now, which makes running back yet another need for this team in next month’s NFL draft.