As if the San Francisco 49ers could not do any more to bolster their already impressive offseason, they added a little depth to their backfield on Tuesday by signing running back Brandon Jacobs and making this team lethal in a variety of different aspects of their game.
The knock on the 49ers last season was in two categories—succeeding in the red zone and converting on third down. Both weaknesses can be attributed to quarterback Alex Smith, but they can equally be attributed to Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter as well, who were often unable to grab the extra yardage or bust open big runs when the opposing team expected it, taking the pressure off Smith.
But now the 49ers have added weapons on offense. Instead of the pressure being on Smith to convert on third down or to lead a successful finish to a drive inside the red zone, the pressure will now be on the opposing defense. Smith now has weapons in Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, along with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. He also has Gore out of the backfield for quick passes for short gains.
Most notably, he now has Jacobs in the backfield for short yardage and red zone help that will ultimately take the pressure off of Smith.
The common misconception here is that because of his build, Jacobs is a great short-yardage runner. However, he is not, and it should be noted that he has the running mechanics of an east-and-west runner, but with the physique of a north-and-south runner. Although his build supports a successful short-yardage gain, his upright mechanics leave him susceptible to being tackled easily.
However, what many miss in this recent acquisition is that the 49ers are not asking Jacobs to run the ball 20 times a game. In fact, San Francisco may not ask him to run the ball 10 times in one game. Jacobs' goal while in San Francisco is to switch up the look on offense and convert when called upon.
The 49ers now have a moderate threat through the air with Moss, Manningham, Crabtree and Davis. But they also have a hard-nosed runner in Gore and a physical runner in Jacobs to alternate carries. The opposition now has one more aspect of the 49ers to game plan for.
Another note: Jacobs and the 49ers are only committed to each other for one season. Like the Moss acquisition, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Ultimately, the goal of the 49ers this offseason was to take the pressure off of Smith. Gore is not a player who can take over games by himself. He needs a clear mix of pass and rush on offense in order for him to be successful. GM Trent Baalke acquired two of the best wide receivers on the free agent market and a running back who can take on the load when the 49ers come just that close to either the end zone or the first down marker.
There is no longer pressure for Smith to throw for 10 yards or more per play, because he has Gore and Jacobs in the backfield with the ability to convert on short yardage when called upon.
The 49ers continue to upgrade their team from last season, and only a few weeks into next season should prove that Jacobs was the most needed acquisition of them all.
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