Bruce Miller is a rugged fullback who for three seasons has helped the 49ers run the football.
As the lead blocker for running back Frank Gore, Miller has helped blast defenders and open holes for Gore, who has three consecutive seasons of more than 1,000 yards rushing.
Now that Miller is out – lost for the season with a broken shoulder blade – the Niners might have to adjust some of the things they do, but their offensive personality shouldn’t change, quarterback Colin Kaepernick said this week. Whether it’s Anthony Dixon in at fullback, or re-signed Will Tukuafu -- or even running plays out of formations without a fullback -- the 49ers aren’t going to go away from their power running game.
“Once you get to game time, whoever’s in at fullback for us, if they’re doing well and they’re making their blocks and not missing assignments, then, you know, ‘OK, we can continue doing what we’ve been doing,’ ” Kaepernick told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “If it’s something where it’s not quite working and not quite fitting, then you have to make adjustments to try to put yourself in the best situation.”
The first test will come Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons in the last regular-season game for the 49ers – and perhaps the last football game ever – at Candlestick Park.
The bottom line, said Kaepernick, is the 49ers will find a solution to Miller’s absence to continue running the ball with authority. The Niners rank fifth in the NFL in rushing at 137.1 yards per game.
“I think for the most part we’ll stay true to who we are and continue doing what we’ve been doing,” Kaepernick told Lynch.
Dixon, who replaced Miller in this past Sunday’s win over the Bucs, will be counted on as Miller’s replacement. Tukuafu, who played 90 snaps for the 49ers as a blocking back in 2012, was re-signed Wednesday after a workout. He had been released by the team in September. At 6-foot-4 and 293 pounds, he could be a battering ram in front of Gore.
Dixon, meanwhile, is eager to step in and help the ground game keep rolling along.
“I’m good,” Dixon told the team’s website. “I train hard in the summer. I never missed a game. I don’t really have injuries right now, so I consider myself a fresh body going in there. I’m ready to go.”
Plus, Dixon is an excellent short-yardage back and has proven he can be a good receiver out of the backfield, a role in which Miller has excelled. Kaepernick says the team will miss Miller, but he’s excited to see what Dixon can do.
“He’s someone who has no fear running through holes, taking on linebackers,” Kaepernick told the Chronicle. “He kind of lives for that type of thing. So, I’m excited to see what he can do when he gets in there.”