The San Francisco 49ers entered training camp with an incredibly deep and talented group of running backs in Frank Gore, rookie Carlos Hyde, Kendall Hunter, explosive returner LaMichael James, and still-recovering South Carolina product Marcus Lattimore. That’s as good of a five-deep as you’re going to see, but the 49ers have been reduced to Gore and Hyde in the meantime thanks to injuries of varying significant. Lattimore isn’t fully healthy and is currently on the active/PUP, Hunter tore his ACL and will miss the entire season, and now James has suffered a significant ailment.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that James, who was carted off the field yesterday, suffered a dislocated elbow, and he added that the RB is expected to miss a month. It will be interesting to see if James can make it back before the start of the season, because he’s a real asset on returns. Losing him would cut into the 49ers RB depth to start the season, as the Niners will already need to sign a veteran off the street as a camp body to replace Hunter and James in August.
This injury isn’t a devastating one by any means, because James won’t miss much regular season time, if any. But at the same time, it clears the way for even more reps for Hyde, who should enter the season as the team’s unquestioned No. 2 back behind Frank Gore, whom he was compared to at several points during the pre-draft process. Hyde has all the tools to be a star, workhorse back and the heir apparent to Gore, so it will be exciting to watch both players lead the 49ers rushing attack next season.
James has had issues with his elbow in the past, so it’s worth monitoring his injury as we get closer to Week 1. Lattimore will be healthy by then, but I’m not expecting him to make much of a contribution this year despite his obvious talent.