A lot can happen in two days, just ask the San Francisco 49ers as they lost two of their top three running backs in RB Kendall Hunter (torn ACL) and RB LaMichael James (dislocated elbow). A once crowded backfield, the 49ers will now have to rework their roster while adding more competition at the tailback position. We all know that RB Frank Gore is the entrenched starter but what about rookie second-round pick (No. 57) RB Carlos Hyde and RB Marcus Lattimore?
Two players that have worlds of potential, it was Hyde who I believed would win the short-yardage role. A role that was made vacant due to the departure of RB Anthony Dixon to the Buffalo Bills, Hyde has the patience, power, and agility to fulfill that role. A bruising runner between the tackles, it’s no wonder Hyde was my pick as the running back to push Lattimore back in May and not Hunter or James.
Now, with both Hunter and James sidelined for the foreseeable future where does that leave the running back position? Certainly running backs coach Tom Rathman would love more competition, and with second-year RB Jewel Hampton continuing to shine, that’s not enough competition in training camp, leaving me to believe that veterans will most likely be sought after.
Two names that fit that mold are RB Felix Jones and RB Michael Bush. In six seasons in the NFL, Jones had amassed 2,912 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. A more of a slasher type-runner who can make plays in space, as he has sub 4.4 40-yard speed, Jones would be a nice alternative considering what’s out there. Not to mention, he provides more value in the return game as he has 87 career kick returns for 2,044 return yards and one touchdown, do not be surprised if Niners GM Trent Baalke gives him a call.
Another player that may be in the discussion is Bush. A former Bay Area player as Bush played for the Oakland Raiders he may be a big back on their short list. Bush, who is considered more of a downhill runner would fit the 49ers scheme to a tee in terms of his vertical running-style. When we interviewed FB Bruce Miller the other day he alluded to that type of presence as he said:
Miller on Hyde: “He puts his foot in the ground and gets vertical. And that’s what we always ask those guys to do to pick up tough yards.”
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) July 26, 2014
With Bush likely to garner some immediate attention as he has 3,250 career rushing yards and 29 touchdowns, he’s another runner that would create competition. Remember former 49ers’ RB Brandon Jacobs? He was a similar type of player who can get tough yards between the tackles against a stacked box.
As the 49ers do their due diligence, do not be surprised if one or both of these players are given tryouts as they add some type of dimension considering the saturated free-agent market.