In 2011 the San Francisco 49ers primary goal on offense was to run the football as Frank Gore had 282 carries while Kendall Hunter added 112 carries for a total of 394 carries. The two also combined for 1,674 yards and just 10 touchdowns on the ground. With the offense running the ball a majority of the time it allowed for defenses to key in on run plays and as a result the team struggled to sustain drives and in the red zone.
Another reason there was difficulty moving the football was the lack of weapons at the wide receiver which meant opponents were only concerned about tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. That became clear in the NFC Championship game against the New York Giants when Davis caught only three passes and Crabtree one.
This season will be drastically different as Randy Moss and Mario Manningham signed as free agents and A.J. Jenkins got drafted in the first round, so there’s no more focusing on the two primary receiving threats for opponents.
With Gore turning 29 in May the 49ers made moves to help with decreasing his workload so he can stay fresh throughout the entire season. Signed were Rock Cartwright and Brandon Jacobs while LaMichael James got drafted in the second round out of the University of Oregon. Already on the roster are Hunter and Anthony Dixon who may switch to fullback.
These signings give added depth to the running back position as Cartwright will see time on special teams, Jacobs has had two 1,000 yard seasons and is best in short yardage situations as he’s a power back, James has speed and is a threat to take it in for a touchdown any time he touches the ball and Hunter will be the primary backup.
By keeping Gore fresh in games his yards per carry average, yards per game average will go up and his numbers of carries will go down. Realistic expectations in 2012 for him will be around 225-245 carries, a 4.8 yards per carry average and 10 plus touchdowns and if he does go over 10 it will be a career high. While he may not reach 1,211 like he had last season, his other numbers will be the best since his 2006 season in which he had 312 carries for 1,695 yards good for 5.4 yards per carry, eight touchdowns and averaged 105.9 yards per game.