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Week 13 resulted in San Francisco’s fourth non-win of the 2012 regular season. Coming off a loss, the San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) are neck and neck with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in the NFC.
Late in the season, the 49ers have gone through some midseason changes. They have had some injuries and changeover in terms of personnel. The offense in particular is going through some growing pains, having lost Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams for the season.
This week, wide receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) did not participate in practice. He has been a solid pass-catcher and all-purpose threat in his first year as a 49er. San Francisco may be without his services as soon as Sunday’s game versusMiami.
On top of that, head coach Jim Harbaugh promoted second-year man Colin Kaepernickto starting quarterback.
All of a sudden, this seemingly unanimous No. 1 contender lost 13 years of collective experience on offense, not including Manningham. And even though Kaepernick is dynamic, there is still a lot of development to be had.
San Francisco needs to start collecting wins here, and in order to do that they need to utilize all of their instruments—no limitations. Entering Week 14, San Francisco’s first and second-round picks are yet to see the field during the regular season.
Of the first two players the Niners selected in the 2012 NFL draft, the one they need to integrate immediately in LaMichael James.
Kendall Hunter going down left a significant hole in the 49ers’ backfield—more so than the departure of Kyle Williams did with the team’s receiving corps.
With the postseason approaching, the 49ers need to get James acclimated as soon as possible. Last week’s experiment with Brandon Jacobs was unsuccessful, as the bruiser only carried four times for six yards.
As a fourth-rounder, Hunter was able to step in and be effective right away. Meanwhile, James is one of the most prolific runners to ever grace the NCAA. His running style is more similar to Hunter’s, in that he would provide a change of pace.
With great speed and elusiveness, James brings the home-run threat on each play, which is something Brandon Jacobs and Anthony Dixon do not. In this creative and opportunistic offensive approach by the 49ers, James seems like a perfect fit.
The ability to dictate coverages with ingenuity would ultimately create opportunities for James in space. He would provide explosiveness as a runner and a receiver, similar to New Orleans Saints RB Darren Sproles.
The team could also use some depth and options at returner since Ted Ginn Jr. has been underperforming. Overall, the 49ers could benefit from more explosiveness. Not to mention, a productive James would optimize Frank Gore‘s general output.
San Francisco needs these final four games to get James ready to contribute in the playoffs. The 49ers’ ground attack is the most important part of their offense. And more often than not, when they are moving the ball on the ground, the entire offense is able to open itself up.
Getting LaMichael James involved right now is the next best thing the Niners can do to get better as a team.