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Kendall Hunter Leads The Way, But He Should Remain Backup To Frank Gore

While it's true that rookie running back Kendall Hunter came in, and then the San Francisco 49ers offense really started to click, that doesn't mean that Frank Gore is a detriment or that he doesn't have "it," anymore. Many fans were talking about how Hunter needs more carries and Gore needs less, and these folks may just be right ... but there's no way Gore should be taken from his starting role, as others have suggested. 

For one, Gore had about double the carries of Hunter, and about double the yards. Gore's longest run of the game was twelve yards, while Hunter's longest was eleven. The only area where Hunter was markedly better was his two receptions for twelve yards. We can assume the two are at least comparable in that area, considering Gore has always been a capable receiver, though he did have one go off of his helmet on Sunday.

So Kendall Hunter came in and had bigger runs at better times, but that doesn't mean he'd be better-suited to be in the starting role. Gore is a one-cut runner who hits the hole hard and is difficult to bring down. When he goes, you generally know where he's going, but his whole thing has been his ability to ... you know ... do it anyway. Hunter comes in, and he's great in small spaces, and definitely great in open space. Like he showed against the Bengals with his ten-yard run, sweeps and tosses work well for him. He's quick, deceptively quick, and it works well. He's a lot different than Gore is.

And that's probably why he's successful.

The folks calling for Gore's benching are acting way too fast on this. Gore is running well and he's the starter - a starter who just received a big contract extension. The 49ers coaches wouldn't have allowed that to happen if they didn't think that he had something left. And again ... Hunter's success is coming as a change-of-pace back. 

It's not the entirety of the reason that he's doing well, but part of it is the fact that defenses are preparing for Gore and an offense that runs through him, and then Hunter, the change-of-pace back comes in, and runs an entirely different direction and style. It's almost unfair, especially when you're dealing with a rookie. 

Hunter is going to excel in this offense, and he's probably the 49ers running back of the future, but he's right where he should be on the depth chart, and shouldn't be moving up anytime soon.