The San Francisco 49ers second full day of padded practice saw their second running back go down as RB LaMichael James suffered an apparent dislocated elbow. James who was in the running to be the “next man up” after RB Kendall Hunter tore his ACL yesterday will now be sidelined for an indefinite period of time.
The news now puts the once crowded backfield in shambles, as the Niners only have rookie second-round pick RB Carlos Hyde and RB Jewel Hampton in their back pocket. And if you’re wondering about potential Pro Bowl RB Marcus Lattimore, he’s still not 100 percent just yet as he’s still recovering from his previous injuries. So the question remains, who will win that backup role to start the season? I believe it’s now Hyde’s role to lose. Yesterday morning I said that Hyde not James would be the backup and I still believe that to be true today.
However, it was Hampton not Hyde that got the bulk of the second-team reps. Hampton was seen catching everything in sight while running hard between the tackles. A player that was once considered an after thought, it was Hampton who continues to impress. But do not count out Hyde as he definitely looks the part of a feature NFL running back. His combination of size, power, and strength should be enough to win the job in the end.
But who will replace James in the return game? I believed that rookie fourth-round pick WR Bruce Ellington would beat him out back in May and actually went on KNBR saying that he would replace him. Well, that may just happen now.
With the 49ers continuing to lose players in a once crowded backfield, the “next-man up” approach will need to hold up as “it’s not a cliche, it’s a way of life” as OC Greg Roman alluded to yesterday.