San Francisco 49ers were dealt a huge blow at the start of this week when it was announced that LaMichael James had suffered a dislocated elbow.
The injury news is obviously bad for James's career, but the ramifications are also pretty huge for the 49ers franchise itself.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting that James will be out for a month because of the dislocated elbow, and this news couldn't be worse for starting tailback Frank Gore.
Double injury blow
This is because back-up running-back Kendall Hunter is already out for a significant period after he tore his ACL in a non contact drill on the second day of 49ers training camp.
The injuries to James and Hunter will now put severe pressure on premier running back Frank Gore during the early part of the NFL season.
San Francisco have acted by bringing in Alfonso Smith, but this move will not stop things escalating. Gore saw his rushing efficiency seriously decrease in 2013 compared with the previous season. A drop from 4.7 yards per carry to 4.1 yards a carry should be a concern for 49ers fans.
Granted it's nothing like the sharp decline of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, but Gore could well struggle this year without a good foil. Hunter and James are the only 49ers backs that have the capability of doing this right now, including Smith.
Now this does mean that the 49ers will be able to blood rookie running-back Carlos Hyde and 2012 fourth round draft pick Marcus Lattimore, but those players don't give the 49ers a chance of winning when the season comes round. They are talented players no doubt, but starting week one with one of those players alongside Gore would be a gamble.
Those guys won't be up to speed by the time the regular season kicks in come September, which means veteran Frank Gore will have to carry the load in the early part of the season before James gets back to full fitness.
This could well have a knock on effect with Gore becoming leggy at the back end of the season.
For the 49ers, this possibility would spell the end of their playoff hopes. Even if James does come back for week one, there's no way he would be up to speed to be the number two right away as well.
As we all know, when the 49ers are at their best it's because their running game is dominant and their defense is on top.
A tired Gore means they can't dominate. The 49ers need to pick up a running back that is better than Alfonso Smith that is for sure, and he's not going to give them anything. They needed to pick up an NFL ready veteran back, but this latest decision means they will be putting undue pressure on Frank Gore when the NFL regular season begins in September.
Pressure is mounting on the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh after three successful seasons has led to no Super Bowl success.
The franchise is desperate to add to their five Super Bowl wins. Having not won the Super Bowl since the days of Steve Young at the end of the 1994 NFL season, winning the Super Bowl in 2014 is the only option for Harbaugh and the 49ers.
This running-back problem could be the first of many that appear in the upcoming season as the 49ers struggle to meet their lofty expectations.
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