San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh loves to have competition on his roster, so expect a lively training camp and exhibition schedule this summer among what is now a deep and varied group of running backs.
The team’s signing of former New York Giant Brandon Jacobs Wednesday now gives the 49ers a foursome of ball carriers.
Jacobs – who won two Super Bowls with the Giants – joins a cast that includes starting running back Frank Gore, change-of-pace second-year back Kendall Hunter and young power back Anthony Dixon.
According to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, Jacobs, 29, isn’t expected to unseat Gore as the starter or take Hunter’s role. He likely will compete with Dixon, however, as a short-yardage specialist.
Though Jacobs twice had 1,000-yard seasons with the Giants, Jacobs is expected to provide a rugged backup to Gore and a capable short-yardage option.
Dixon, drafted in 2010 out of Mississippi State, had just 29 carries in 2011 (for 87 yards), but the 6-foot-1, 233-pounder was 3-for-3 in getting first downs in short-yardage situations.
Jacobs, at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds, can be a load in short-yardage situations. According to Inman, who was citing ProFootballFocus.com, Jacobs last season converted first downs on 17 of 24 runs in short-yardage (2 yards or less) opportunities in 2011. The 49ers as a team were 17 of 35, Inman reported.
As Inman also noted, of Jacobs’ 56 rushing TDs in the NFL, 27 have come on runs of 2 yards or less, so his worth to a team that was last in scoring touchdowns in the red zone could be enormous in 2012.
Though Jacobs had injury issues in 2011, he came up big late in the season and postseason. ESPN’s Mike Sando wrote that Jacobs’ three longest runs of the season came from Week 14 or later.
Jacobs has been criticized in the past for not being as much of a power back as he should be at his size. Former 49ers great Jerry Rice on ESPN even called him “a little bit soft” and said “he can’t get away from a defender.”
“This guy is 265 (pounds) and it upsets me when I see him get tackled by a guy that’s like 190 or 200 pounds,” Rice said last season.
But Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Jacobs’ teammates have seen him as a difference-maker when he’s motivated. Wednesday, Jacobs’ former teammate Tiki Barber said in a radio interview that, “If you get him on your side, so to say, he’ll run through a wall for you,” Branch reported.
According to Inman, Jacobs agreed to a one-year deal with San Francisco that could be worth up to $2 million.
Jacobs becomes the second Giant to join the 49ers this offseason, joining wide receiver Mario Manningham.