When the San Francisco 49ers brought running back Brandon Jacobs into the fold this off-season, many envisioned a solid niche role for the former New York Giant. The 49ers were looking for a short-yardage specialist, hoping that Jacobs could play the part.
So far, however, Jacobs has been inactive for the first five games after injuring his left knee in the second week of the preseason. Even after running his mouth to the media earlier this week, it appears Jacobs will not be activated in time to face his former team on Sunday.
Given everything that has taken place in the Jim Harbaugh Era, it's safe to say that Jacobs would be playing if the 49ers truly needed him. However, with the team rolling to a 4-1 start, why rush Jacobs if he isn't yet at 100 percent?
To this point, the 49ers lead the NFL with 981 rushing yards on a 6.1 yards-per-carry average, also good for best in the league. Frank Gore is currently seventh in the league with 434 yards rushing, with both Gore and Kendall Hunter averaging more than 5.4 YPC.
Conversely, the Giants finished dead last in the NFL in rushing last season. This year, without Jacobs, they currently stand as the twelfth-ranked team in that category with 601 yards on a 4.8 YPC average, up from 3.5 last year.
It would not be completely fair to attribute this jump to the absence of Jacobs, but it would also be hard to argue that his presence has been missed in New York.
The 49ers's carries have been split by Gore, Hunter and Anthony Dixon, all of whom were on the roster in 2011. The Giants have made due mostly with veteran Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown, who sat on the New York practice squad last season.
Do the 49ers need Brandon Jacobs?
In other words, both teams have gone forward with what they had last season, rather than replacing Jacobs with added parts.
As a New Jersey resident that watched the majority of Giants games over Jacobs' stint in New York, I never understood his appeal as a power back to begin with. I always saw Jacobs for his tendency to hesitate and side-step, rather than just hit the hole, which isn't an uncommon point of view.
In addition, his most recent comments back up Jacobs's reputation as a diva, as mentioned before. Despite an injury and the team's winning record, Jacobs still found it necessary to publicly question his role on the team.
Rest assured, this type of behavior will not sit well with Coach Harbaugh.
Jacobs, of course, has not yet had the chance to show what he can do in red and gold, but he should be feeling the pressure to make an impact upon his activation.
Neither his former team nor his current team have skipped a beat without him, which should no doubt raise red flags for the 30-year-old. Teams don't exactly beat down the door to sign a running back at that age, especially if he appears to be nothing more than a cog on the wheel.
All statistics used in this article were taken from NFL.com.