This one is kind of a no-brainer when it comes down to it. Pro bowl running back Frank Gore is out for the remainder of the season for San Francisco, and another pro bowl running back in Brian Westbrook will take his place. Is it a seamless transition? Hardly.
The two share some similarities, surely. They both have good hands and can catch the ball out of the backfield on any given play. Both running backs fight for every yard they get, and both excel in blitz pick-up. Gore and Westbrook are essentially a quarterback's best friend on any given play, but the transition from one to the other will shake things up in the offensive philosophy.
Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson was more than happy giving Westbrook carry after carry against the Arizona Cardinals this past Monday, consider it a stress test. Westbrook passed with flying colors, but you can't expect him to get that many again. Still though, we don't know just how he'll be used, let alone how many carries he'll be getting. One thing you should expect is for Westbrook to see a large portion of the snaps if only to be in to pick up the blitz. The 49ers plan to give rookie offensive tackle Anthony Davis some help on the right side against the Green Bay Packers pass rush.
Clay Matthews is the league's leading sack producer and Davis will need all the help he can get when Matthews lines up at left defensive end. That help will likely come in the form of additional help from his fellow lineman, as well as tight ends and running backs - namely Vernon Davis and Brian Westbrook. When it's a must-win situation, only the most dependable veterans should be counted on, thus the reasoning that rookie tight end Nate Byham and rookie running back Anthony Dixon wouldn't be the go-to guys in that instance.
So what will we see from Brian Westbrook? As mentioned, it's fair to assume that he'll be in on a lot of blitz pickup, but what else? Mike Johnson was less-than-revealing, only hinting at slight offensive changes, which is leading this writer to believe that's a good thing for Westbrook and the 49ers. The Packers have never seen the 49ers with Brian Westbrook as the feature back, save for earlier this week against the Cardinals, and that was without a gameplan revolving around him. It could turn out to be a deciding factor in who comes away with a win on Sunday: whether or not the Packers are caught totally off guard. Now we can all sit back and watch to see if the 49ers are creative enough.