What type of an impact can the NFL's largest running back have in San Francisco's offense?
Well, I suppose that answer lies somewhere inside Brandon Jacobs' monstrous, 6'4", 264-pound frame.
What we do know is that when Jacobs is at his best, he can be exactly what San Francisco needs. The 49ers have long been searching for an effective power back and hope Jacobs can be just that.
However, the ill-tempered beast of a back often lets his anger get the best of him, and I have to imagine he’ll be on a short leash in San Francisco. The 49ers are growing into quite the tight-lipped franchise under Jim Harbaugh's lead, and Jacobs normally isn't shy about sharing his opinions with the media.
The one-year, $2 million contract Jacobs and the 49ers agreed upon is mainly incentive-based, so the 49ers don't stand to lose much if they are forced to cut ties with the seven-year veteran at any point.
In response to Jacobs signing in San Francisco, former teammate and ex-Giant Tiki Barber had this to say in an interview with the bay area's KGMZ radio station: "This is a good thing for him. Going to a system that focuses on running the ball first is something he's been clamoring for for the last three years."
OK, I'll admit it does seem like a good thing. Jacobs grew up a fan of the 49ers. San Francisco does focus on controlling the game with the run, accompanied by a stout defense.
However, Jacobs doesn't honestly think he's going to get 150-plus carries in 2012 with the Niners, does he?
Since Jacobs took over for Barber as the Giants' starting running back in 2007, he’s averaged 188 carries a season. From '07 to '09, he eclipsed the 200-carry mark each year. The last two seasons, however, Jacobs has amassed just 299 carries and wasn't fond of the Giants increasingly ditching the run game in favor of the air attack.
While it's a given Alex Smith won't be winging it as often as Eli Manning, I still don't see Jacobs garnering anywhere near the amount of carries he seemingly desires.
Kendall Hunter is coming off an impressive rookie season, and I'm not sure Trent Baalke and Co. are interested in stunting his growth by passing off precious carries to Jacobs.
Gore—the franchise's all-time rushing leader, mind you—is most likely still in line to get 200-plus carries, barring an injury. While Jacobs will certainly provide ample time for Gore to catch a breather, there's no shot he'll be replacing "The Inconvenient Truth" as the main horse in the stable.
Hunter touched the ball 128 times (including receptions) in 2011, and it's safe to assume he'll garner at least that many in 2012. Gore had 299 total touches throughout the season despite missing considerable amounts of playing time with nagging injuries.
Even so, this left just 29 carries for Anthony "Boobie" Dixon, the 49ers' third-string and supposed "power" back. The front office seems to be replacing the oft-disappointing Dixon with the addition of Jacobs, and while it's basically a given that he will be more effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations than Dixon, how many carries does Jacobs really stand to get?
If all goes well and both Gore and Hunter remain healthy, I just can't see Jacobs handling the ball any more than 100 times on the season.
With that said, if he understands his role and remains content, Jacobs' presence can lead to a myriad of benefits for both the 49ers' offense and defense. Converting on third-and-short situations will help sustain drives, leading to a fresher defense when it takes the field.
On third-and-long situations, Jacobs is an effective pass-blocker out of the backfield as well. Gore is an effective blocker in his own right, but Jacobs blocking is basically like having an extra lineman in the backfield.
Not to mention, he's a well-known touchdown vulture and can sniff out the end zone effectively when he's channeling his anger in a proper manner. Jacobs is the Giants' all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (56) even though he spent just seven seasons with the team.
So, clearly the potential benefits outweigh the potential negatives. The 49ers don't stand to lose much if they decide to let Jacobs go, even if he's released before the season begins.
Regardless of the potential impact, the addition of Jacobs is another bold move for the 49ers front office.
However, bold moves are sometimes necessary in the NFL, especially for those who carry the aspirations of becoming world champions once again.
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