Frank Gore still has a lot of gas left in the tank
Gore has been the heart and soul of the 49ers' franchise for several years. His work ethic is monumental, and his team-first attitude sets him apart from many superstars. It is his ability, combined with his toughness and professionalism, that makes him such a great team leader.
Gore is now 29 years of age and will be entering his eighth NFL campaign. Gore has rushed for over 1,000 yards in five of his last six seasons.
Gore suffered a severe hip injury that cost him the last five games of the 2010 season. Heading into 2011, there were concerns that Gore might be nearing the end of the line, especially after he started the season slowly. Gore came on strong and finished with 1,211 yards, the second highest total of his career.
In his illustrious career, Gore has rushed for 7,625 yards on 1,653 carries, a 4.6 yards-per-carry average. He also has 287 career receptions for another 2,397 yards, not to mention 52 career touchdowns.
Let's take a look at the 49ers' 2012 schedule and put together some fun projections for the year Frank Gore could have.
Frank Gore breaks free against the Packers in a game at Candlestick Park
The San Francisco 49ers open the season with a tough road contest against the Green Bay Packers. The Packers had one of the weakest run defenses in the NFL last year, allowing 4.7 yards-per-carry, ranked 26th in the 32-team league.
The fact that the Packers have a strong offense, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, helped the run defense immensely. Teams were frequently trailing the Packers, so they were forced to go to their passing game more than they would have preferred.
The Green Bay brass realized their weakness was on the defensive side of the ball in 2011. They drafted for defense, as their first six selections were all defensive players. Of particular note are the Packers' first- and second-round picks, linebacker Nick Perry and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy.
Perry will play on the opposite side from Clay Matthews and can be a good pass-rusher and run-blocker. Worthy will provide the Packers with a strong, physical inside presence. At 6'2" and 308 lbs., Worthy can be a solid run stuffer inside.
The 49ers will likely want to unveil some of their new offensive toys, including Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and LaMichael James. For this reason, I think Gore's opening game stats will be fairly pedestrian.
Stats: 13 rushing attempts for 54 yards and 1 reception for 7 yards.
Ndamukong Suh leads a tough defensive front for the Detroit Lions
The San Francisco 49ers play the Detroit Lions in a nationally televised game on Sunday night. Hopefully Candlestick Park's lighting will work properly for this night game.
The Lions' defense against the run was even worse than the 49ers' Week 1 opponent, Green Bay. The Lions allowed an average of 5.0 yards-per-carry, which ranked 30th in a 32 team league.
The Detroit front four is extremely strong rushing the passer, and 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh will want to take some of the steam out of that pass rush.
I expect the 49ers to try to run the ball down the collective throat of the Lions. It would please Harbaugh immensely if the 49ers were able to do that against his coaching nemesis, Jim Schwartz. Many will recall the tiff between the two, after a post-game handshake incident following a 49ers win in 2011.
Stats: 21 rushing attempts for 116 yards and 1 TD. 2 receptions for 11 yards.
Frank Gore picks up yardage against Minnesota in a previous game
In the third game of the season, the 49ers travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings. The Vikings are in a rebuilding mode, but their defense against the run has been strong. Minnesota was ranked sixth in the league, allowing an average of 3.9 yards-per-carry.
It was the pass defense that victimized the Vikings in 2011, as they allowed an NFC-worst 68.2 percent completion rate. Only the Colts were worse in the league, at 71.2 percent.
I expect the 49ers to open the game with the pass and try to exploit what was a vulnerable defensive secondary last year. If the 49ers are successful and build a lead, expect to see a lot more of Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.
Although I expect a big 49ers' victory, I do not expect a big game from Frank Gore.
Stats: 11 rushing attempts for 41 yards and 2 receptions for 18 yards.
Frank Gore could have a big game against the Jets
The New York Jets are the 49ers' Week 4 opponent. The Jets were ranked seventh in the league last year, allowing 3.9 rushing yards-per-attempt.
The Jets drafted defensive end Quinton Coples to aid in their pass rush, but outside of him, there were no significant upgrades to their front seven.
Stats: 20 rushing attempts for 87 yards and 1 TD. No receptions.
Mario Williams was signed by the Bills to shore up their defense
The Buffalo Bills travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers. The Bills ranked 27th in the league in rushing defense in 2011, allowing an average of 4.8 yards-per-carry. Their 2,224 yards allowed was even worse, at 28th in the league.
In an attempt to bolster their defense, the Bills signed defensive end Mario Williams in the offseason. Williams will help the Bills immensely, and Buffalo has the offensive weapons to make this a close game.
I expect the 49ers to try to keep the Bills off balance with a good mix of rushing and passing.
Stats: 16 carries for 67 yards and 1 reception for 6 yards.
Osi Umenyiora and the Giants beat the 49ers in the NFC title game
Week 6 features the rematch of the 2011 NFC championship game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers lost that game in overtime 20-17.
Frank Gore had a respectable game, rushing for 74 yards on 16 attempts. He also caught six passes for 45 yards.
The 49ers also played New York earlier in the 2011 season, and Gore was stifled by the staunch Giants' defense. Although the 49ers won 27-20, Gore had his worst game of the year. He had no yards on six attempts.
I expect another tight, close game between two excellent teams.
Stats: 13 rushing attempts for 32 yards and 1 touchdown. 4 receptions for 18 yards.
Frank Gore has had some of his best games against the Seahawks
There is no secret that Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll do not like each other. This goes back to their collegiate days when Harbaugh was at Stanford and Carroll at USC.
The 49ers defeated the Seahawks twice last year, and Frank Gore had two solid, though unspectacular games.
Armed with his new weapons, I expect Harbaugh to spread the ball around and try to overwhelm Carroll and the Seahawks' defense.
The Seahawks' run defense was the fourth best in the league, allowing an average of only 3.8 yards-per-carry. The defensive front is solid with strong run defenders Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons. Gore has broken off some huge runs against the Seahawks in years past, but it will be tougher now.
Stats: 15 rushing attempts for 57 yards and 2 receptions for 14 yards.
Frank Gore shown rushing against the Cardinals in 2011
Frank Gore had two good games against the tough Arizona defense in 2011. The Cardinals' defense likes to fly around and make big plays. This creates opportunities for an opposing offense to make some big plays.
In 2011, in the two games against Arizona, Gore rushed for 161 yards on 34 carries. His 4.7 yards-per-carry was very good.
Arizona's rushing defense was right in the middle of the league last year. However, I forecast Gore to have a big game against the Cardinals but get banged up, with a sprained ankle, late in this contest.
Stats: 18 rushing attempts for 101 yards and 1 TD. 1 reception for 12 yards.
Frank Gore celebrates after a victory against the Rams
The 49ers had their bye week, which was beneficial in helping Frank Gore recover from his ankle sprain, incurred in the previous game against the Cardinals.
The 49ers try Gore for a few plays, but he is ineffective and given the remainder of the night off.
Stats: 4 rushing attempts for 8 yards
Brian Urlacher and the Bears will be a formidable test
The Chicago Bears come to San Francisco in Week 10. This is an important game, as both teams fight to make the playoffs.
The Bears have the 10th ranked defense against the run, allowing 4.0 yards-per-carry. In addition, they had a top-10 ranked defense against the pass.
Frank Gore and the 49ers' offense have trouble moving the ball against the Bears. A low-scoring, tough defensive battle ensues.
Stats: 10 rushing attempts for 37 yards. 1 reception for 11 yards.
Frank Gore carries the ball against the Saints in the 2011 playoffs
The San Francisco 49ers head to the Bayou to face the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are struggling and likely to miss the playoffs. Drew Brees and the Saints' offense is good, but the defense is very porous.
The 49ers rack up their best offensive game of the year, as they move the ball well, both on the ground and through the air.
In the NFC playoffs last year, Gore faced the Saints and had 13 carries for 89 yards. He also caught seven passes for 38 yards.
Stats: 15 rushing attempts for 121 yards and 1 TD. 3 receptions for 18 yards.
Stephen Jackson is Gore's counterpart in St. Louis
The San Francisco 49ers travel to St. Louis to face their division rival Rams. Gore tweaks his ankle early on and is lifted for the remainder of the game.
In 2011, the Rams had the 13th ranked defense against the run, allowing 4.1 yards-per-carry.
Stats: 4 rushing attempts for 12 yards.
Karlos Dansby leads a porous Miami defense
The Miami Dolphins are in a rebuilding mode but did little to improve their defense this offseason. In fact, they lost one key starter along the defensive line, as Kendall Langford departed via free agency to the Rams.
The 49ers roll to an easy victory. Frank Gore is held out of this game, in order to give his ankle time to heal.
Tom Brady leads to Patriots to another excellent season
In a precursor to the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers travel to New England to face the Patriots. The Patriots ranked ninth in the league in rushing defense, allowing 4.0 yards-per-carry, in 2011. A major reason for this was the fact that the pass defense was terrible and teams eschewed the run.
This game is an aerial circus with Alex Smith and Tom Brady putting on a show.
Frank Gore plays and is effective in limited chances. Gore has his best day catching the ball out of the backfield.
Stats: 11 rushing attempts for 62 yards. 4 receptions for 47 yards and 1 TD.
Frank Gore has a big day against Seattle
The San Francisco 49ers travel to Seattle needing a win to lock up the division crown. They play well and accomplish their goal.
Frank Gore has a big day on the ground and breaks a long 78-yard run. This pushes Gore above the 1,000 yard mark for the sixth time in his illustrious career.
Stats: 18 rushing attempts for 168 yards and 1 TD. 1 reception for 3 yards.
Frank Gore breaks a tackle against the Cardinals
In the final game of the season, with the playoffs locked up, the 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals. Frank Gore plays sparingly, as head coach Jim Harbaugh wants him fresh for the playoffs. Due to their tough schedule, the 49ers will not have a bye in the first round.
Stats: 5 rushing attempts for 17 yards.
Frank Gore has another stellar season
The San Francisco 49ers head to the playoffs for the second straight season under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Frank Gore led the way for the 49ers' running game. With backups Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James all getting their chances, Gore was not overworked.
Gore heads into the playoffs fairly healthy and ready to help lead his team to the Super Bowl. He also continues in his leadership role on and off the field.
2012 regular season stat projections: 194 rushing attempts for 1,020 yards. 22 receptions for 165 yards. 7 TDs.
We all know this is purely speculation, and it's impossible to predict a complete season on a game-by-game basis. Nevertheless, this is a fun look at one of the best running backs in 49ers' history.