As Frank Gore entered the 2013 season, there was some speculation as to whether or not the San Francisco 49ers running back could maintain his workhorse status at the age of 30. Gore, who had never played more than 16 games in a season, was coming off back-to-back years of 18 and 19 games when factoring in the 49ers’ playoff runs.
Despite the wear and tear, Gore bucked the trend of ball carriers declining once they hit 30 years old and finished ninth in the NFL with 1,128 yards on the ground. He also scored nine rushing touchdowns, which was the second-highest total of his career. While Gore’s numbers were still at the top of the league, questions persist moving forward about exactly how much he has left from this point on.
The 49ers made another deep playoff run last season, and Gore was again the focal point for most of the team’s 19 games. It added another 324 carries to his career total which gives him 2,327 (regular and postseason). As he enters his 10th NFL campaign at age 31, it shouldn’t come as a shock if his play starts to trail off.
Gore’s production took a dip at the end of last year, as he averaged only 3.6 yards per carry over his final 10 games (including the playoffs). For the regular season, he averaged 4.1 yards per attempt which was the lowest in his career. He also had his worst overall showing in the playoffs, gaining 164 total rushing yards in three games (3.4 yards per attempt). In comparison, Gore accumulated 482 yards over five playoff games in 2011 and 2012 at 5.2 yards per tote.
It’s unrealistic to think the 49ers expect Gore to be a workhorse again in his 10th season and not see a decline as the games add up. While he will still see the majority of the carries, the team should and will start to work in other backs to take some pressure off of Gore. Expect to see both Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore be involved in the game plan consistently. It might not even be out of the question for San Francisco to take a runner in the draft to take over in 2015.
As they enter the upcoming season, the 49ers still have their window to win a Super Bowl wide open. How much they get from Gore could go a long way in determining whether or not they achieve their goal of a sixth championship.