Kendall Hunter’s season ending Achilles injury is a bit of bad news for the 49ers, and Hunter who was on pace for a career year, and really looking good out there, but it’s an injury they should be able to cope with. Fortunately for the 49ers they are extremely deep at running back, and this injury just might have made room for the 49ers 2nd round draft pick LaMichael James to break out. It really does speak to the depth of the 49ers that it took an injury for him to even have a chance at cracking the 53 man roster, but if given the opportunity, he won’t disappoint.
There are plenty of things to like out of the diminutive rookie from Oregon. He’s fast, his cuts are razor sharp, he’s got great vision, and his penchant for explosive plays makes him dangerous every time he gets the ball. You really have to wonder how the Niners were able to get him 61st overall, let alone how he hasn't been given any playing time this season. Can only hope Jim Harbaugh takes advantage of his talents, but rumour has it he still hasn’t worked his way into the coach’s favor. Rumour has it that Harbaugh won’t be using James too much this Sunday, in favor of Brandon Jacobs and Anthony Dixon. The only problem with these two, is they don’t replace anything that Hunter brought to the table. They aren’t fast, and by no stretch of the imagination are they elusive.
Dixon has been a special teams player with occasional carries as the running back when the game is in its dying moments, with sporadic playing time as the full back. Brandon Jacobs is a washed up, old, power back whose best years are far behind him. That’s not to say Jacobs is useless. He will do fine when put in short yardage or goal line situations, but other than that not so much. Even in his best years with New York he had a difficulty playing within his limits as a running back, and was marred by inconsistency. Having spent as much time on the bench as he has this season, it seems foolish to expect him to fulfil the role Hunter was playing so well.
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Now James has apparently been taking punt returns in practice, but reports indicate Harbaugh isn’t too keen on putting him back there just yet. Can’t imagine why. Both his punt/kick returners are hurt, one for the rest of the season, James has all the skills to fill in quite well. As a matter of fact, why not put him in the backfield on third downs, or when Gore needs a break too? The kid can play, just give him a chance.