Dixon's improvement is the pivotal point to the 49ers' ground game in Frank Gore's absence. While Brian Westbrook may have cemented his place ahead of Dixon on the roster, the fact of the matter is that Westbrook is not in Philadelphia any more because he's fragile. That may or may not be the case, but if it is, the 49ers will need to count on Anthony Dixon.
Dixon showed a lot of promise in the preseason, showing flashes of everything good that you don't often see from a big running back, especially on a jaw-dropping 46-yard TD run against the Chargers. Early in the season, Dixon did not carry often, but when he did, he got whatever it was the 49ers needed in the particular situation.
Since that point, he has had minimal success and has often been stopped for losses. On the plays that he has been thrown for a loss, more often than not he is stalling and waiting for a hole, and it appears that's what's killing him before he gets started.
At six feet and 233 pounds, Dixon is a load to stop... when he's moving. When he's hopping indecisively around prior to having passed the 300-pound linemen on the opposing team, that's another story. Apparently, there's a little more power required to run through college arm tackles than pro arm tackles.
A part of this may be due to his limited use prior to Gore's injury. If he realizes that he's not going to get many chances, it makes sense to get a little nervous about trying to hit a home run every time you get a swing. Hopefully, this is the case and he's able to calm down and take what he can get.
Dixon is a smart, heads-up player who understands the game, and I hope the coaching staff is able to help him optimize his talents. When used effectively, he has the tools to be a revered power runner in the NFL.
Now more than ever, the 49ers may soon find themselves heavily relying on his services. Hopefully he can revert to some of the excitement he brought to the field early on.