Every team has a weakness, and for the San Francisco 49ers it is the wide receiver position. Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles, Mario Manningham is recovering from a knee injury, AJ Jenkins needs to step up and Randy Moss is not returning. That leaves veteran Anquan Boldin as the only proven receiver on the roster. Second year running back LaMichael James has the speed and quickness to eat up yards in the open field.
Though James is only entering his second year in the NFL, he can be used in the slot running out, slant and corner routes. Short passes allow him to get the ball in his hands in the open field and make defenders miss tackles. Even if the passes are screens and flairs on the edge, they still get him the ball out in the open much like New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles.
Using him in certain situations preserves aging running back Frank Gore. Yes, Gore will not have the ball in his hands as much, but it keeps him healthier throughout a trying 16-game season and potential repeat Super Bowl run. So the team does not become too predictable when James is in the backfield, the 49ers could use a split-back formation and throw the ball to the other running back.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be another beneficiary of this concept. Short passes to James would improve his individual statistics, but protect him from open field running that leaves him vulnerable to hits and injury. Kaepernick could even throw those short passes to James on bootlegs. Sounds like a win for everyone. The question is will head coach Jim Harbaugh have the foresight to implement this scheme in practice and in a game?