San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore believes that he will be healthy and ready to go in 2011. Gore suffered a fractured right hip in Week 11 and there has been a question mark as to whether he would be the same for the upcoming season. He is scheduled to start running again on Feb. 28.
Gore will be a player that the team and fans will monitor this entire offseason. Since the team’s workhorse became the full-time starter in 2006, the running back has shouldered a huge load of the team’s running back duties. Because of all that, Gore hasn’t played a full season since the 2006 campaign due to injuries.
With a new offense and less focus on making Gore the team’s top option on every play, there is a chance that Gore might be in the best position of his career to be effective.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has said that he doesn’t want to overwork Gore, giving second-year back Anthony Dixon some opportunities to carry the ball as well. At the same time, Harbaugh understood the importance of Gore’s presence on the field and said that he would make sure Gore gets as many opportunities to carry the ball.
Looking back at Stanford’s offense in 2010, we could see how that offense operated in the running game. Stanford’s starting running back Stepfan Taylor averaged 17.1 carries per game throughout the entire season. Gore’s average over the past three seasons is at 17.2 carries a game. Of course, you still have to take into account that the college level is different than the pro level and that Stanford had a pretty strong passing attack.
Stanford’s backup running back Anthony Wilkerson averaged 6.8 carries a game last year. Anthony Dixon carried the ball 4.3 times for the 49ers in his rookie year.
Despite Harbaugh’s desire to relieve Gore of the workload as a running back for this upcoming season, it looks like he might not decrease it by much. The team has yet to install their offensive playbook in yet so it still hasn’t been determined how the 49ers want to approach the season. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said that the offense will be based on the players’ skills and talents — something that the team’s past offensive coordinators didn’t do very well.
So how much running do we expect from Gore in 2011?
If Gore is fully healthy when/if the season starts, I wouldn’t say too much of a drop from last season. The lighter load might come from the style of running. The team’s run up the middle approach from the past two seasons clearly was punishing to Gore’s body. The new offense should feature some of that and some runs toward the outside — something that Dixon has shown he could excel in.
We might not see much less of Gore in 2011 but probably more Dixon for the running game. It won’t be a rushing attack like the two-headed monsters some teams have employed — maybe a one and a half-headed monster more likely. It will all be figured out once the players and coahes meet and the playbook is created.