Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Gore is an indispensable component of the 49ers offense.
There are a handful of players the San Francisco 49ers cannot lose to injury if they hope to make another run at the Super Bowl.
Obviously, Colin Kaepernick is the most important. He is their star quarterback, and without him, the 49ers will be in trouble. The 49ers are so concerned about life without Kaepernick that they signed Seneca Wallace this past week. Wallace did not even play last season.
Colt McCoy got a lot of action against the Vikings and fared pretty well. He completed 11 of his 15 attempts for 109 yards. Although McCoy threw one interception, he actually played well (stats courtesy of 49ers.com).
The 49ers also cannot lose Frank Gore. He is the heart and soul of the 49ers offense, and without him, they would have to go to a committee type of approach to fill his shoes.
Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James do not have what it takes to be every-down backs, and their combined value falls below what Gore gives the 49ers. They are also smaller backs and could not take the constant pounding that Gore absorbs.
In 2012, Gore carried the ball 258 times for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns. In addition to being an excellent runner, Gore is an outstanding pass-blocker and does a great job picking up the blitz.
With Michael Crabtree out, the other player the 49ers can ill-afford to lose on offense is wide receiver Anquan Boldin. He is the only proven threat at the position, and his reliability is something that Kaepernick will count on.
Defensively, there are two critical combinations that cannot go out at the same time. Justin and Aldon Smith form the bulk of the pass rush and, in tandem, are two of the best defenders on the right side of any defense in the league.
The 49ers' pass rush was virtually non-existent in 2012 when Justin went out with an injury and Aldon was hindered by a bad shoulder. The 49ers need these two to stay healthy.
Finally, the inside linebacker tandem of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are essential to the 49ers' success. The 49ers could probably live without one of them for awhile, but if both Willis and Bowman were to be out at the same time, it would spell disaster.
Michael Wilhoite is a capable backup and can help fill the void at one of the two inside linebacker spots, but the 49ers do not have a second linebacker that can step in without a major drop-off if both Willis and Bowman are out.
Willis and Bowman are the best pair of inside linebackers in the league, and the 49ers' defense would be severely compromised without both of them.
Keeping star players healthy is vital to success in the NFL and the 49ers must hope that these seven players remain healthy.