For the second time in as many days, the San Francisco 49ers suffered an injury at the running back position. Yesterday, the 49ers likely lost running back Kendall Hunter for the entire 2014 season when he reportedly tore his ACL. Today, third-year running back LaMichael James suffered a dislocated elbow and is expected to miss at least a month.
While Frank Gore is still listed as the No. 1 running back in San Francisco, the injuries to Hunter and James create cause for concern. Hunter was expected to be the No. 2 running back while James has been used in a number of different ways throughout his young NFL career.
Fortunately, the 49ers do have quite a bit of depth at the running back position. Second-year running back Marcus Lattimore and rookie Carlos Hyde will likely receive more reps during training camp and have even more of an opportunity to contribute this season.
However, neither Lattimore nor Hyde have the skill set to replace the loss of James. James has been used mostly as a return man on special teams or a receiving threat out of the backfield so far in his NFL career. For the most part, Lattimore, Hyde and starter Gore all are between-the-tackles runners whereas James is more of an open-field runner.
While the loss of Hunter certainly expects to be a much larger blow to the 49ers, losing a second running back in as many days is obviously not an ideal way to begin training camp.