Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
With Kendall Hunter going on Injured Reserve and Jewel Hampton coming off the PUP list, which RBs will the 49ers select for the active list heading into St. Louis to face the Rams?
The 49ers have had an eventful week, beginning with the victory over New Orleans in the Superdome. That game also became the last game of the season for two 49ers players, Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams, both of which were placed on IR Tuesday.
While Williams tore his ACL, Hunter has an achilles tendon injury that will end his season. The latter is a particularly interesting situation as Hunter was the 49ers second-leading rusher in 2012 and a key to keeping Frank Gore fresh. The team will have to figure out how to replace Hunter, and while they don't have any issue with depth at the position...they might have a hard time figuring out just which backs to activate on game-day seeing as how they have five to choose from.
Anthony Dixon has been active for every game in 2012, mostly serving a key role on special teams, but seeing a few carries in garbage-time as well. I wouldn't expect them to increase his role on offense much though.
Brandon Jacobs has had a hard time getting on the field this year but had two carries against New Orleans, one of which was nullified by a penalty. He has the most experience among the potential replacements for Hunter, being a two-time Super Bowl Champion and long-time member of the New York Giants as a feature-back.
Still, Jacobs doesn't bring the athleticism that Hunter did, something that rookie LaMichael James would certainly bring to the table. But is James ready for a role in pass-protection and/or special teams? It's unlikely the 49ers would activate him only to get him in the game for a handful of offensive snaps. Hunter is a capable player on third-down, in addition to being a kick returner. James could that role, making him likely to be active as the up-back and also as a replacement for Ted Ginn.
Speaking of Ginn, he had an injury which looked a lot like "muffitis" on Sunday, as he was pulled from the game after turning over a punt to the Saints deep in San Francisco territory. Jim Harbaugh said Ginn was yanked from the lineup due to an injury, but I'm not sure I buy it. James has been working on punt returns, and is certainly electric enough for the duty, but his hands might not be quite there yet as a punt-catcher...something no 49ers fan wants to see evident on Sunday.
Lastly we have newly activated RB Jewel Hampton, who was on the Non-Football Injury/PUP list to open the season. Hampton is built a lot like Hunter, short but thick and powerful, although chances that he's ready to step-in as a key contributor just halfway through his rookie season would appear slim. Still, we have no idea how much of the playbook Hampton has digested, even if he hasn't practiced physically in some time.
In all likelihood the 49ers will activate Jacobs and James with the latter seeing time as a KR and little time on offense. The 49ers prefer to pound the ball and not turn it over, something Jacobs would seem to offer as a large bruising runner over the slight-of-build James.
With Jim Harbaugh, though, you just never know.