Training camp in the NFL is always brutal, but the benefits are always reaped.
Jobs are lost, but opportunities are born, and the two will balance each other out to either make or break a team. In case of the 49ers, it will be reaped in opportunity and competition.
The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2012 training camp fresh off a NFC championship berth and optimism is running high for more reasons than one.
One reason is the arrival of several veterans at the running back and wide receiver positions to add even more depth to an already talented offense led by Alex Smith at quarterback.
The signings at running back are former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James. They will join Kendall Hunter competing for the second spot.
At receiver, its Randy Moss fresh out of retirement, rookie first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and big free agent pickup Mario Manningham.
If all four had their way—except for maybe Brandon Jacobs—they would be competing for the No. 1 jobs on different teams. Instead, they were brought in to compete for spots on their depth charts, which will be an adjustment, but will also push them beyond their limits and make the San Francisco 49ers even more of contenders in the NFC.
The spirit of competition is one of the best things to witness and be a part of. And it’s even better looking at a team on the cuffs of a Super Bowl having position battles to see who is going to receive more time on the field.
Because Frank Gore is 29, taking a few carries away from him won’t hurt. LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs will both try to prove why their skill set is the best match to take a load away from Frank Gore.
LaMichael’s James and Kendall Hunter's change-of-pace speedster style may better complement Frank Gore’s bruising style, but Brandon Jacobs can get a lot of third down carries and goal line time.
LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter compared to Brandon Jacobs are varied in age, height and style of play, which will only make the battle that much interesting and important.
The three backs will make themselves and the team overall better with the competition with what they bring to the table.
For Randy Moss and Mario Manningham primarily, neither will want to be the third man out because that essentially is Vernon Davis’s role. But whoever will lose the job will perhaps be the best third option in the NFL.
A.J. Jenkins has potential to be good, but he may have to pay his dues being a fourth receiver.
Randy Moss—regardless of age or the layoff—is talented enough to still achieve a 1,000 yard season, and Mario Manningham left the New York Giants to try to play a bigger role elsewhere. Both signings can raise the heat upon Michael Crabtree.
Even if Mario Manningham beats out Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree for the first or second spot, Randy Moss playing the inside third spot will only cause havoc for short corners. If Manningham is third, then he can play the position he played in New York primarily last season.
Whatever comes about for the depth chart, it will only make the team even stronger. Neither will willingly let their competition just take the job that easy.
They won't allow them to do so and won't allow themselves to give in. Say Brandon Jacobs wins the second spot; LaMichael James can be used in passing situations to make plays in the open field.
Brandon Jacobs in goal line, LaMichael James/Kendall Hunter used as Darren Sproles, Randy Moss inside/outside, Mario Manningham outside/inside, whichever poison or order that will be chosen will still be seen as a deadly option besides the No. 1 option.
Competition is needed anywhere you go because great competition can increases player and wherever setting you’re at morale, too.
Be it work or sports, everyone gains the benefits. San Francisco will become a better team with the position battles, but of course it’s new depth.
A running back by committee maybe commissioned, and Mario Maninngham, Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree could spearhead a lethal three-headed attack.
The offensive line may be struggling to get through their two-a-days and could possibly get inspired by watching the position spots up for grabs. They may feel they should step up their game, too.
They can be the most explosive team in the NFC—that’s if they buy into Jim Harbaugh’s plan of team first. Whoever rises out as the starters, second-stringers or role players will only make the San Francisco 49ers that much more of a threat for a Super Bowl run.
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